COLUMN-Coal isn’t amazing – how to lose the PR war, and why it may not matter – by Clyde Russell (Reuters U.K. – September 24, 2015)

(Reuters) – – Can the coal industry win a public relations battle, and does it even matter if it can’t?

There’s no shortage of people and organisations claiming that coal is increasingly embattled and is about to go the way of whale oil and wood as a fuel of the past.

Does this mean that the Minerals Council of Australia’s new, and seemingly costly, campaign in support of the fuel is simply raging against the inevitable, or does it herald a new front in the war between coal miners and anti-coal environmentalists?

There’s little doubt that coal has an image problem, increasingly so in developed countries where the fuel’s major contribution to climate change is well-publicised and understood by the majority of the public.

One of the top producers has even gone so far as to say coal is on the losing side, and not just because prices have dropped by almost two-thirds in the current four-year losing streak.

BHP Billiton president of coal, Mike Henry, told a function in Brisbane on Sept. 18 that while the current coal market was challenging, the longer-term outlook remained strong.

But he also said coal was losing the public relations fight and the industry needed to do more to take on both those who wanted to destroy the coal industry and those that didn’t believe in climate change.

“It would be fair to say that as we stand here today, in the court of public opinion, the ‘no-coal’ camp has been more effective. Anti-coal activism has been building momentum over many years,” Henry was quoted as saying by the Australian Financial Review.

“We can only hope to secure balanced support for the industry if we step up and help improve the quality of debate and the depth of understanding about what we do, why we do it – and how important it is,” he said.

Henry’s comments came shortly after the Minerals Council, the advocacy body for the Australian mining industry, launched its campaign to convince the public of coal’s merits and future role.

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