Coal Campaign Pulled After Heavy Criticism

A coal industry Web site featuring cute lumps of coal caroling rejiggered holiday songs about clean technology was shut down Friday after it drew a chorus of angry boos from environmental groups.

Launched this week by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), the site allowed visitors to dress up a choir of blinking, grinning lumps of anthracite in festive scarves and hats and then select from an altered repertoire of pro-coal carols. "Frosty the Coal Man" and "Clean Coal Night" (instead of "Silent Night") were two of the options.

But just five days after the campaign's launch, the ACCCE decided to take down the interactive flash Web site.

Joe Lucas, vice president of the ACCCE, attributed the sudden change to underperformance, not to fire from critics who think the only place for coal is in a Christmas stocking.

"The site traffic was a little underwhelming for me," he said. Since Monday, the site had received 21,000 visits, he said, adding that he would have been more satisfied with at least 40,000 visits.

When asked if they were responding to criticism from environmental groups, Lucas would only say that the slow traffic drove their decision to remove the site. He also said that taking down the carolers' site allowed his group to focus on a new television ad unveiled today.

But environmental groups are celebrating like it's already Christmas.

Rob Perks, the campaign director for environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, said he "absolutely" thought that the site had been taken down because of criticism from his group and others. On Tuesday, he took the campaign to task in a blog post titled "Can Industry Get Any More Cynical Than Coal Carolers?"

His blog entry for Friday read: "Big Coal's worst...advertising...campaign...ever is no more!

"I feel like they took their lumps and went home," he said.

Cynicism or Strategy?

Earlier this week, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a statement that said, "When you can't refute the sobering facts about the product you're peddling, just dress it up, have it sing Christmas carols and sit back and wait for the public to come rushing to your side. Ah, if only fun outerwear and corny songs could erase coal's dirty statistics."

The statement included the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming and sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid raid.

Rob Perks, the campaign director for environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, also took the campaign to task in a blog post titled "Can Industry Get Any More Cynical Than Coal Carolers?"

'Worse Than Joe Camel'

"This is the most cynical ploy that I've ever seen from the industry. It's worse than Joe Camel selling cigarettes," Perks told ABCNews.com.

Along with several other environmental groups, Perks' organization last week launched The Reality Coalition, a grass-roots public awareness effort to dispel the myth of clean coal.

The coalition's primary message is that coal cannot be considered clean until its carbon dioxide emissions, which are contributing to global warming, are captured and stored. That process mitigates global warming by capturing and storing underground carbon dioxide emitted from coal plants.

Despite test projects in the United States, no coal plant in the country has fully integrated the process. The first power plant in the world to do so opened in Germany this fall.

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