Something We Should Not Forget: Clean Coal Carolers

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When people look back on the early 21st century, I hope that we'll stand out for our literature and art, music and science, our general cultural vibrancy. On the other hand, what might mark our time is the ridiculousness of our political and social debates in the YouTube era. Take this video, which was part of a "clean coal" marketing campaign a few years back. It features caroling pieces of coal, which seems like a reductio ad absurdum argument against viral marketing.

Check out these verses:

Frosty the coal man
getting cleaner every day
he's affordable and adorable
and the workers keep their pay.

There must have been some magic
Clean coal technology
For when they looked for pollutants
There were nearly none to see.

Let's go with the anthropomorphism for a minute. The coal carolers, meant to stand in for coal's political supporters, will actually be burned in the power plants to which they are singing praise. Truth in advertising!

Via Alan Nogee

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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