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Peabody ‘Clean Coal’ Advertisement Ruled Misleading

An advertisement from Peabody Energy Corp. promoting coal as an energy source was misleading in its use of the phrase “clean coal,” a U.K. regulator said.

Peabody, the largest U.S. coal company, started running an advertisement in February in which it referred to “today’s advanced clean coal technologies.”

Upholding a complaint from the World Wildlife Fund, the London-based Advertising Standards Authority said consumers were likely to interpret the advertisement as a claim that “clean coal” processes don’t produce carbon dioxide or other emissions. The advertisement must be changed before it runs again, the ASA said yesterday in a ruling on its website.

Peabody is at the forefront of efforts by the coal industry to push back against greater regulation of emissions. The St. Louis-based company is funding an advertising campaign with the slogan “Advanced Energy for Life” that promotes coal as source of energy to combat poverty and improve health.

The ASA rejected two other complaints from the WWF -- that Peabody’s statement that “energy poverty” is the biggest human and environmental crisis was misleading and unsubstantiated, and that the company ignored the environmental damage caused by coal.

Peabody said in a statement yesterday that it “applauded” the ASA for affirming its right to assert its views on energy poverty. The company also said the term clean coal technologies is “widely accepted” as describing processes that reduce emissions from power plants.

‘Small Victory’

Peabody has added a footnote to the offending advertisement and is confident the modification will comply with the ruling, Vic Svec, a company spokesman, said today in an interview.

The ASA’s decision is “a small victory, but a victory nonetheless,” Alexandra Bennett, a spokesman at the WWF European Policy Office in Brussels, said today in an interview.

The coal industry should take the ruling seriously, Darek Urbaniak, energy policy officer at the WWF European Policy Office, said in a statement.

“We will be keeping our eyes peeled in the media for other examples of misleading advertising,” he said.

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