Two out of three ain't bad

PEABODY Energy has been able to beat off two World Wildlife Fund claims against an advertisement it ran about coal’s role in ending energy poverty – but could not beat a third.
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Peabody Energy’s Twentymile operation in Colorado. Courtesy Peabody Energy

Noel Dyson

The WWF went to the UK Advertising Standards Authority with complaints over Peabody’s advertising that:

  • The claim “energy poverty is the world’s number one human and environmental crisis” was misleading and could not be substantiated
  • The ad implied the advertiser was working to solve energy poverty and that this was misleading because it did not make clear the extent of the effects on the environment of the advertiser’s own coal-related activities and because it understood that it was generally accepted that the solution to energy poverty depended on renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels
  • The term “clean coal” was misleading and implied the advertiser’s impact on the environment was less damaging than was actually the case.

The ASA dismissed the first two WWF claims.

However, it accepted the third point.

“The ASA understood that the phrase ‘clean coal’ was the term given to a branch of research and innovation aimed at reducing the environmental impact of using coal such as filtering out particulates and preventing or neutralising the emission of waste gases,” it said in its reasons.

“However, we also understood that this technology was not able to prevent carbon dioxide from being emitted during the use of coal, relying instead on carbon capture and storage and that although emissions such as sulphur dioxide were reduced, they were still produced.

“We also noted that the line immediately following the claim stated ‘We call it Advanced Energy for Life. Because clean, modern energy is the solution for better, longer and healthier lives’ and considered that consumers were likely to assume that this referred to Peabody Energy’s ‘solution’ of ‘clean coal’.”

The ASA ruled the ad could no longer appear in its present form and that Peabody had to ensure future ads did not state or imply their technologies were emission free or similar unless it could demonstrate this was the case.

Peabody applauded the ASA’s decision but disagreed with any need to clarify the term “clean coal technologies”

“The US Congress itself defined the term clean coal and Japan and China have recently affirmed the use of clean coal technologies as important to their energy strategies,” Peabody said in a statement.