Parody site jabs at coal group

| News Editor

A goal of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization is “to distort public understanding of a clean energy future,” at least according to a parody Web site aimed at the consortium.

The Web site initially copied the format of official site for the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, http://clean​, but both sites have since undergone several changes that eliminated much of the similarity.

The real aim of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization (CCCU) is “addressing the scientific and technological challenges of ensuring that coal can be used in a clean and sustainable manner.” The parody Web site, however, disagrees with the message of the CCCU and serves to undermine its purpose.

Brian DeSmet, creator of, said that the format of the Web site was taken from the official site in order to gain more attention.

“If I just made a site that was critical of [the CCCU], who would ever know about it?” DeSmet said, referring to legal pressure on the site. “It really does bring the potentiality that someone at the University or one of the companies would do what they’ve done, so in a sense they did what I wanted them to. I got a thousand hits before I got a cease-and-desist letter from Peabody, and I’m sure I’ve gotten a lot more since.”

DeSmet said that he works for an environmental non-profit organization, but he created the Web site independently.

“To really lend the University’s credibility to a phrase like that, even using ‘clean coal’ in the URL, I had a real problem with that,” DeSmet said.

DeSmet hopes that the site will lead people to become involved in discussion about the CCCU.

“I’d like to see a broader conversation about how this happened and why they are doing this,” DeSmet said.

DeSmet said that his understanding of fair use allowed him to use the logos of the CCCU, Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and Ameren since he did not try to deceive visitors. He said that his goal was to make a point about the CCCU.

“Once you read past the first few lines, I don’t think anyone is going to be confused,” DeSmet said.

But the three corporate trademarks were removed after DeSmet received a cease-and-desist order from Peabody Energy. The CCCU trademark has had a red “censored” bar placed over it.

Richard Axelbaum, director of the CCCU, said he was not aware of any action by the University but wrote in an e-mail that the consortium itself had not taken action against the parody site.

Axelbaum said that the parody site would draw people’s  attention to the official site as well, helping the CCCU spread its message about the research being conducted.

“One of the goals of the Consortium is to help the public become better informed about ways to utilize coal cleanly, and so the additional activity that the Consortium Web site has experienced following the publicity of the parody Web site is helping us to achieve our goals,” Axelbaum wrote.

Green Action President Peter Murrey said he shares DeSmet’s view on the term “clean coal.”

“We have no problem with the research that is being done,” Murrey said. “The data that is coming out of it is amazing stuff. With that being said, under the name ‘The Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,’ it’s very hard to take those results seriously.”

Murrey said that Green Action and other student groups prefer to register their objections to the CCCU by engaging the administration. Murrey said the professors have been open to discussion and he hopes to reach a cordial agreement.

“[The Web site] gives us a great opportunity to come back to this and put it in another light,” Murrey said. “Say, ‘University, this is how you’re looked at by outside members. How do you want your peer institutions to look at you?’”

Under the resources area of the parody site, links are provided to blogs such as Mountain Justice, Climate Ground Zero and the Rainforest Action Network. A posting for America’s Energy Future: Challenges and Opportunities states that “Admission is free, but checking reality at the door is required.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.