Lumps of Coal

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When it comes to lobbying on behalf of your cause you can present a reasoned argument backed up by data, you can build a coalition of supporters over time to pursue legislation in the public interest, or you can rally a bunch of corporations to spend a huge amount of money to buy a little love from Congress. Guess which tactic coal companies are going with?

In the face of coal's undisputed contribution to global warming in the form of two billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually the industry is heaping money into the 2008 election, via innocuously named 527 groups like "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices," campaign contributions to congressional and presidential candidates, and every other gambit their $40 million in expected expenditures will allow.

 

The companies bankrolling Americans for Balanced Energy Choices include mining giants Peabody, Consol, and Arch Coal; railways Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, BNSF and CSX; and utilities Southern Company, American Electric Power and Duke Energy. Combined, those companies are worth more than $200 billion.

The coal industry has given a combined $38 million to federal candidates since stepping up their climate change campaign three years ago. More than 65 percent went to Republicans, according to an analysis of campaign data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

To be sure, coal is an important national industry and employer but in a campaign finance climate in which those with the biggest campaign war chests are heard the loudest and the most often, big special interest donations and spending like this detract from useful debate on the subject of climate change. Can you get real progress on responsible environmental policy when coal companies are holding the biggest bull horn?