These are tough times for the coal industry.
Coal plants are being retired at an increasing rate in North America and Europe, replaced by a combination of natural-gas and renewable generating capacity.
These days, virtually any way to produce electricity is seen as better than coal, which produces the highest volumes of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of almost any fuel.
In April, Peabody Coal filed for bankruptcy, adding to the industry's miseries. It was then the world's largest coal company in private hands.
As it turns out, bankruptcy has brought to light some company activities it clearly would have preferred to keep to itself.
Those are, as The Guardian detailed this week, its lengthy activities to question the accepted science of climate change.
NASA's famous 'Blue marble' image of Earth (Wikimedia commons)
Peabody was hardly alone in that activity, with a wide array of companies, lobbyists, and wealthy individuals all spending hundreds of millions of dollars to call into doubt the scientific consensus.
Those have included at various times Exxon Mobil, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch Brothers, and many more.
Climate scientists and nonprofit organizations knew that Peabody contributed to the denialist cause, but the scope of its activities proved to be far broader than previously understood.
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It was among the most public of energy companies in its public rejection of both climate science and government action to confront it and limit its effects.
Nonetheless, Peabody turns out to have given funds to at least two dozen separate groups, the Guardian wrote.
They spanned "trade associations, corporate lobby groups, and industry front groups as well as conservative think tanks."
West Virginia Coal Hauler window sticker
Documents within the company's bankruptcy filings last month revealed the extent of its climate-denial activities.
It funded work by scientists attempting to discredit and disprove the consensus of opinion, donated money to ALEC, which is suing the EPA to overturn its climate-change emission regulations, and funded the so-called Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.
That group insists that manmade emissions of carbon dioxide are far from a threat, but are in fact “the elixir of life” for humankind.
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Peabody also supported notorious D.C. lobbyist Richard Berman, known for launching dozens of lobbying groups with respectable-sounding names to influence legislators under the guise of education and sow doubt about causes that may hurt corporate profits.
The company's activities led to an investigation by the New York State attorney general's office, which resulted in a settlement under which Peabody agreed to make fuller disclosures about the extent of its activities.
Despite what's been uncovered, the full scope of the coal company's aggressive efforts to impugn the science of climate change may not be revealed until its bankruptcy process is complete.
Two BNSF locomotives hauling coal trains meet near Wichita Falls, Texas
Recipients of the funding, from individual researchers to lobbying groups, did not respond to inquiries or interview requests from The Guardian, it said.
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