For a troubled coal industry, “Survival is Victory” and Big Tobacco is a model

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo
A coal seam at a coal mine. (Peabody Energy/Wikimedia)

A coal seam at a coal mine. (Peabody Energy/Wikimedia)

Denver was the site of an unusual speech last year.

As the New York Times reports, an industry executive laid down some tough truths at the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute’s annual convention. The presentation was titled, rather dramatically, “Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars.”

The tobacco reference is probably why this story made the Times. The tobacco-fossil fuel comparison has been made many times by environmentalists, but rarely by the industry.

The most obvious similarity is that both Big Tobacco and oil companies have spent heavily on research and advocacy to deny their products’ ill effects.

The coal-industry speaker, however, seems to have been talking about another similarity: It’s now a given that tobacco causes cancer, and a growing majority of Americans believe the effects of climate change are real.

Writes NYT:

“We need to get out of the binary debate on climate change,” one slide read. “Right, but dead, is not a victory.”

The presentation called on the industry to prepare for more stringent regulation, and to build a better future for the industry and its workers by pushing for more research into technology that can capture carbon dioxide from smokestacks, which could extend the use of coal.