SPOOF, OR REALITY?

BY ON May 10, 2011

Just when I thought things could not get any weirder, as the House votes on the environment got more cynical–

–a friend sent me a spoof about coal plants and asthma inhalers.

An offer from a website called COAL CARES: Cool inhalers for asthmGroup of adults relaxing outsideatic kids!–brought to you (but not really) by the very folks at Peabody Energy–the world’s largest sector private coal company.

Because it has “come to our attention that children with asthma are routinely ostracized…we’re giving away kids’ inhalers!”  FREE! “To any kid living within 200 miles of a coal plant.”

“Problem: Inhalers are stigmatized.

Solution: Make inhalers cool!”

Inhalers are decorated with cute images: “Baby’s First Breath” has a picture of  a yellow duckie. There’s also the “Dora the Explorer” and “My Little Pony” inhaler. For older sufferers: pictures of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Harry Potter, Diamonds–an asthmatic’s best friend–or skulls.

As the spoof goes on: “the real problem with asthma isn’t a mere inability to breathe: it’s the taunting, berating, mockery and abuse that so often accompanies this infirmity. Asthmatic kids are mocked, roughed up, chosen last for team sports, deprived of medication, and otherwise forced to bear more than their fair share of childhood’s intrinsic difficulties.”

In this spoof, Peabody claims that scrubbers are “an untested technology, ineffective, and too costly. But, of course, this is exactly what coal companies are arguing. Wrongly.

“Locating the filtering mechanism at the point of consumption (i.e. your child’s mouth) is dramatically more cost-effective than locating it at the point of emission (smokestacks) and in turn means less need for intrusive and costly regulation.”

Here’s the weirdest thing of all: the spoof is so brilliantly close to reality—all those arguments against scrubbers are lifted right out of the coal playbook—that it really does look like a glimpse into the brain of the polluter. Or at least, a glimpse at the alternate reality they want us all to live in, a reality where air pollution is just fine. What are we worried about?

The spoof links to the (unrelated) Clean Air Task Force.  That organization offers a fantastic interactive map of the US, showing power plant impacts on health, including heart attacks, hospital admissions and mortality, state by state. Here’s a link to New York, for instance.

Sometimes we need a good laugh. But what happens when polluting coal company tactics are so extremely cynical that we are no longer even sure what’s a spoof–and what’s reality?

TOPICS: Asthma, Coal, Mercury Poisoning, Politics, Pollution

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