Junxion-designed website makes “Clean Coal” dirty

When the people behind the award-winning DeSmogBlog.com came to us in March to partner on an initiative to turn the coal industry’s $40 million “clean coal” PR/lobby/advertising campaign on its head, we jumped in with both feet.

“It’s not often clients talk to us about ways to challenge an industry that fuels the power plants that produce 1.5 billion tons of CO2 per year in the U.S. alone. That’s billion with a ‘b’,” said Junxion principal David Kuefler. “Not only was this a project completely aligned with Junxion’s sustainability mission, we knew it was going to be a lot of fun, too.

“And when we thought about the fact that less than half a percent of our global energy demand is met by geothermal, solar and wind power, and 80 percent comes from fossil sources, this was a project we were very interested in,” he said.

Joining forces with Catalyst Internet, the web development company behind DeSmogBlog.com, Junxion envisioned a seemingly informative, easy-to-navigate site. The site would appear to answer people’s questions about coal and tell the real “benefits” of so-called “clean coal”.

The US coal industry has been busy with its US$35 million campaign to position “clean coal” in the American political debate.  The goal is to drive voters to a website called www.americaspower.org, which they promote on television, in direct mail, and through radio advertising.

“Rather than compete in the airwaves, our goal was to hijack their effort,” said Kuefler. “Using methodologies for how Google ranks websites and a few tweaks to the design, we’re seeing our site moving up the Google search list quickly. The sites also have great viral potential as people send around links and blog the web address into sites around the world.”

Junxion developed the user interface and graphic design for two sites, the main informational site, www.coal-is-dirty.com, and its companion parody site, www.coal-is-clean.com.

Designed to “surf” on searches for the topic of “clean coal”, and using iconic and patriotic images and “stories” that could be torn from the pages of a right-wing America handbook, the www.coal-is-clean.com draws attention to the often ridiculous and overwrought claims of the coal lobby. Anyone landing on the coal-is-clean site is automatically redirected to the coal-is-dirty website with their first click.

The goal of this web initiative is to counter head-on the lobby by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). It’s also aimed at attracting funders for a capital campaign, which will allow for the development and execution of a comprehensive online and media relations strategy to counter the ACCCE’s “clean coal” message.

DeSmogBlog.com, Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network have helped to seed this project together with Junxion’s web design efforts. This is the first step in a plan to raise $150,000 before the U.S. presidential election in November, to discredit the coal industry’s misinformation around “clean coal”.