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'Coal Cares'? Hoax targets industry

Coal Cares

The Coal Cares campaign claims to offer free "Bieber inhalers" to anyone who lives within 200 miles of a coal plant. The campaign, however, is a hoax.

Who says coal companies are full of hard-hearted folks only interested in the bottom line? At least one titan of the industry, Peabody Energy, cares about youngsters with asthma. It appeared to launch a website Tuesday offering free "Puff Puff" inhalers to anybody living within 200 miles of a coal plant. 

In addition to the re-branded inhalers, which promise to make asthmatic kids "show others who's cool at school," the company will kick in $10 towards medication as a part of its Coal Cares campaign.


The website, coinciding with Asthma Awareness Month, also contains printable activities for the kids. While visiting, you can read up on why investing in coal is a better bet than alternatives such as solar and wind.

"Investing in coal will always be a smart move, especially with well-supported, long-term government subsidies driving down costs, and a near-complete absence of subsidies for so-called 'alternative' energies," the site notes.

This is all, of course, a hoax. 

Peabody, which bills itself as the world's largest private-sector coal company, issued a statement today saying that the "spoof" website makes "inaccurate claims about the company and coal." It then points to studies that "demonstrate the correlation between electricity fueled by low-cost coal and improvement in health, longevity and quality of life." 

What's more, Peabody notes, coal use has more than tripled in the U.S. over the past few decades and regulated emissions have declined 84 percent. As for those unregulated emissions such as carbon dioxide, the company says that it is a "global leader in clean coal solutions."

Update for 3:58 p.m. ET: Fast Company's Morgan Clendaniel reports that the project was the work of a newly formed group called Coal Is Killing Kids, which worked with the Yes Lab for the last month and a half to develop the site. On a blog called "Climate Change: The Next Generation," Tenney Naumer quotes from a CKK news release:

"Sure, it's kind of tasteless to say that 'Bieber' inhalers are a solution to childhood asthma," said Janet Bellamy, a spokesperson for CKK. "But it's a great deal more tasteless to cause that asthma in the first place, as coal-fired power plants have been proven to do." ...

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).