WWF complaint leads to ban on energy firm’s misleading ad for ‘clean coal’

A national press ad by Peabody Energy that pushed a campaign around energy poverty being ‘the world’s number one environmental and human crisis”, has been banned after WWF complained it was misleading.

The ad, which featured the text: “Peabody Energy is working to build awareness and support to end energy poverty, increase access to low-cost electricity and improve emissions using today's advanced clean coal technologies”, was investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) following WWF’s concerns that it could be substantiated.

The charity said that the term "clean coal" was misleading and implied that Peabody Energy’s impact on the environment was less damaging than was actually the case.

Peabody Energy stated that the campaign was intended to build awareness of the need to eliminate energy poverty, and improve emissions through clean technology.

The company said various news and information sites, as well as US Congress all used a definition of 'clean coal' that accorded with its own use of the term.

It added that it believed energy poverty is the number one human and environmental crisis facing the world today, and that energy from all sources was required to combat the issue.

The ASA said that while some readers might consider other issues, such as climate change, to be more pressing, in the context of the ad consumers would understand the claim was a statement of Peabody Energy’s opinion.

However the watchdog added that consumers were likely to interpret the word ”clean” as an absolute claim meaning that "clean coal" processes did not produce CO2 or other emissions. For this reason the ad was banned and must not appear in its current form.

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