Joel and Ethan Coen directed a TV commercial attacking the notion that coal can be an environmentally safe way to produce electricity.
About 600 coal-burning plants supply nearly half the nation's power, but critics say coal is a major contributor to global warming.
The commercial, which began airing Thursday on cable TV channels, plays like an air freshener ad. A smiling pitchman extolls the virtues of a black spray can labeled "clean coal." But when a suburban housewife uses it, the can spews a black cloud that gives her family coughing fits. The ad ends with the line, "In reality, there's no such thing as clean coal."
"We were excited to be part of this important project and tell another side of the 'clean' coal story," the Coens said in a statement.
The commercial was produced by a consortium of five environmental groups called the Reality Coalition, which was formed last year to counter promotional efforts by a coal industry trade group.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity has spent $18 million on TV commercials promoting the industry's use of pollution-control equipment and arguing that coal can be a clean, cheap and abundant fuel.
"Meeting America's growing energy demand … is going to require the use of all energy technologies," spokesman Joe Lucas said. "Technology has made coal a cleaner energy option."