Coen Brothers Ad For Clean Coal Air Freshener

elephant-living-room1Feb. 27, 2009 Not sure how many kids will tune into a :30 TV spot created by Academy Award-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen doing a riff on Air Fresheners to “come clean about dirty coal,” but it’s sure easy for kids to ‘get it’ that there’s an elephant in the living room. (isn’t he cute? He’s not in the ad, I found him on GumTree in London, but he makes the point, yes?)

When it comes to the use of the phrase ‘clean coal’ the elephant is a handy visual to add to any counter-marketing campaign, especially when seeding the use of viral videos for informal learning. It’s one of our  many ‘fight fire with fire’  tactics at Shaping Youth in the spirited style of Free Range Studios culture jamming.

After all, kids need to learn how to discern greenwashing and recognize that healthy sounding names like the ACCCE The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity are NOT often as they seem. (a handy media literacy tidbit for when kids get to voting age with confusing ballot propositions!)

coalKids tune into ‘reality shows’ all the time, why not see how they react to the facts list at This is

At least the Coen Brothers’ TV viral video would give kids a unique ‘forward to a friend’ twist on the internet “good luck” chain letter, with informal learning embedded…and media literacy nuggets to deconstruct energy industry spin. Here’s EarthTalk’s Q&A on the query, “Is there such a thing as clean coal?”

We’re not being fair to the coal industry you say?

Probably a buncha tree-huggin’ eco lovin’ outdoorsy types here at Shaping Youth? (um, well, ok, yeah, but…)

crocodiletearsWe always try to lift the veil and see from both sides…


Looking at the ACCCE $45-50 million in advertising spending (according to the National Journal n0npartisan policy group)…

…the “advocacy groups” behind the ACCCE name via SourceWatch…

…and the figures of “$17 in profits for every $1 invested in carbon capture sequestration research” (per the WonkRoom spending smokescreen statistics) let’s just say I’m crying crocodile tears.

Meanwhile, Reality Coalition members are making headway in putting forth the fact that despite industry phraseology, “clean” coal is a misleading oxymoron.

In this post, Creative Greenius pithily equates it to a phrase like ‘healthy cancer.’

Here’s Greenius’ new site with the 1:41 video clip making the rounds by climate scientist Dr. Robert Hansen telling of next week’s March 2nd rebel yell to stop messin’ around and demand action. (See: here’s a handy ‘Top 5 Clean Coal Myths’ cheat sheet to help you make sense of all the crosstalk on the subject.


realityThe Reality Blog (brilliant use of the canary/coal mine color cues too; once a creative director, always a creative director! makes it VERY clear that it’s unmitigated hogwash to think that global warming and the climate crisis will begin to reverse in ANY major way as long as industry trots out theoretical ‘capture and store’ concepts for CO2 emissions, while stuffing the massive elephant in the broom closet with business as usual.

“The reality is, burning coal is responsible for a third of America’s carbon pollution — the chief cause of global warming — and not a single coal plant in America captures and safely stores this pollution.”


Well, ok, that elephant is STILL smack dab in the living room then, isn’t it?

Media literacy fans may also want to show kids Coal is and by contrast, the sister site, Coal is (a tricky bait-n-switch for smooth operators brought to you by the DeSmogBlog which is a joint project between the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace) Useful and fun to boot.

coen-brothersKids may not recognize ANY of the Coen Brother films (”Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Big Lebowski”, at left) but they WILL recognize the silliness and absurdity of the visual cues in the spoof, even at young ages, and begin to discern the power of ‘greenwashing’ and what to watch for…

It’s THEIR future at stake, and chances are high they’ll be empowered to take action and help spread the word using digital activism to stump for change. (teens particularly love the irony, sardonic wit and mockery of mini-movies like this when industry gets caught with its pants down)


The kid vid appeal is going viral, with solid distribution juice by the WE campaign and other climate control coalition members who are turning up the heat in light of last week’s Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to reconsider carbon dioxide regulation. (New York Times article sums it well)

Carpe Diem, folks.

When scientists say the next couple of years are defining moments for our future, they’re not kidding around.

Carbon emission reduction needs turned down, flaming the millions being spent on industry misinformation needs turned up, and avoiding global warming pollution released into America’s atmosphere is something we need to ‘teach our children well.’

Maybe the kids and family in the TV ad will instill some critical thinking skills about our own carbon use and media literacy when words like ‘clean’ and ‘coal’ are mixed together.

At the very least, it’s a good vocabulary lesson.

Clean Coal Air Freshener: :30 Coen Brothers Video Spoof

Visual Credits: No Coal is Clean Coal screenshot via Ashley Sue Allen’s Green Grounded Blog and Photobucket stream, the rest from This is



  1. Amy,

    I saw this ad on TV in my mental background. I figured it was a real product until I saw your post here…what a creative marketing team they have. Thanks for blogging…

  2. Oh, c’mon, you did NOT! You must’ve been eating chocolate and designing a website uber-distracted and not looking at the screen.

  3. coal plants power filters the energy needs with something that emits poisonous NO2 into the air we breathe.The technology to create clean air with much more powerful filters not yet to market.

  4. Check out the CleanTech series at VLAB…Wish I could attend this session today at PARC but I need a clone. If anyone goes, please ping me?!

    Meanwhile, check their archives:

    “REMINDER: PARC Forum at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2009 (TODAY)

    Location: George E. Pake Auditorium at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
    3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304

    cleantech forum series

    The Case for Electric Traction

    Fraser Murison Smith
    CEO, ElectraDrive


    The present fuel crisis is serving to focus unprecedented attention in the developed world on how and why we use motor vehicles. While an increasing number of options beyond petroleum are being explored, the rate of growth in vehicle ownership in emerging economies is expected to carry the number of road vehicles worldwide from 800 million today to two billion by mid-century. If global carbon dioxide emissions are to be stabilized, it will be necessary for these additional 1.2 billion vehicles to be powered in a way that does not produce significant amounts of CO2.

    This Forum will present a case for electricity as the superior energy option to serve our mobility needs. The talk will discuss the implications of converting existing vehicles to electric drive on the demand for new vehicles. The talk will also cover how an electric-vehicle world would affect fuel supplies, electricity supply, atmospheric emissions, and geopolitics. The focus of the talk is primarily on the United States; however, its conclusions are relevant to all regions of the world.

    About the speaker:

    Fraser Murison Smith is CEO of ElectraDrive and a twenty-year veteran of analyzing economic-environmental issues using systems theory. Fraser has a PhD in mathematical biology and a BA in zoology from Oxford University. In the early 1990s, Fraser became actively involved in the field of ecological economics, publishing a series of papers and a book on natural resources and economic development. As a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, he brought ecological and economic methods together to propose a new, dynamically stable management theory for fisheries. Fraser has eight years’ experience in the energy sector as a consultant and a utility manager, most recently with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He has conducted economic analysis to support long-term planning, participated in state regulatory proceedings, and has launched San Francisco’s GoSolarSF incentive program.

    Fraser’s five years’ experience in the software and internet industries encompassed product management, business development and investor relations. One software start-up in particular was acquired in 2000 by Interwoven, Inc.

    Fraser’s automotive passions have extended to three Citroëns and a Th!nk City electric car. He is a volunteer member of CalCars, a non-profit promoting plug-in hybrids. A musician since an early age, Fraser studied composition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music during 2003–04.

    cleantech forum series:

    The focus of the Cleantech Forum Series will be on new technologies as well as resource and policy issues that will shape the energy landscape over the next several decades. The Series will be held every Thursday starting on January 15, 2009 and ending on April 16, 2009. The Cleantech Forum Series is co-sponsored by PARC, Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI), University of California at Berkeley, and NASA Ames Research Center.


    Directions to PARC:

    Further information and previous Forum talks are available online at

    Upcoming PARC Forums in the cleantech forum series:

    Thursday, Apr 9:
    Google investments in Cleantech
    Dan Reicher (Google)

    Thursday, Apr 16:
    Electricity Markets
    Shmuel Oren (UC Berkeley)


    ONLINE ARCHIVE: [video + audio of past Forums]

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Playing For Change: A Music Movement That Stirs the Soul

  5. I had never heard of Greenwash until now, but it definitely makes sense. “Clean coal” is definitely an oxymoron designed to mislead the uninitiated!

    Thanks for helping to “pull away the veil” on the marketing tactics of big business.
    .-= Darvin @ Best Ionic Air Purifiers´s last blog ..HEPA Air Purifiers =-.

  6. Great video. Clean coal. Is that the dummest thing you ever heard of. We need to go to natural gas, get away from coal. Thanks for the video.

  7. Even if you clean often, dust settles on everything. The problem for our lungs is that every step or movement taken in a house or office disturbs the tiny particles (dirt, soot, skin, pollens, dust etc) and they flail around in the air.

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