'My Name Is Coal' stickers in Vancouver boast benefits
Pro-coal advocate Jason Bothe has been tagging stickers on items around Vancouver to highlight how they utilize steel, created using metallurgic coal. Photographed in Vancouver, B.C. on Thursday, April 24, 2014.(CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)
A local campaign is looking to put a new face on coal. Classic red-and-white name tags reading “My Name Is Coal” are being plastered across Vancouver on items made of metallurgic steel, which is created using coal.
Jason Bothe told Sun Media that he and a group called Plan 9 Official — a movement Bothe says is dedicated to finding common ground on contentious issues — are behind the campaign. After publication, Bothe revealed to local media that he is also professionally affiliated with the BC Maritime Employers Association, which is a member of the coal lobby group Coal Alliance.
“As a skateboarder, without steel, I don’t have a skateboard,” he said. “I didn’t realize you need coal to make concrete. It kind of blew my mind.”
Bothe said he’s hoping to provide balance, and show people how dependent they are on steel. On the group’s Twitter page, stickers can be seen stuck in mall garbage cans — in Chinese, no less — on a Vancouver police cruiser, on a street-art piece portraying Walter White from the show Breaking Bad, and other items.
Countless items are made of steel: your cell phone, computer, buses and buildings. Utensils, chairs, hockey skates and reading glasses are all made from coal-based materials. Even wind turbines and solar panels can be made from steel.
But Kathryn Harrison, a director of Voters Taking Action on Climate Change, said the stickers simplify things too much and could be potentially misleading.
“We’re not saying let’s stop having telephone poles and windmills and bicycles,” she said, pointing out how B.C. chiefly produces metallurgic coal used to produce steel.
“We’re saying we need to stop using thermal coal for electricity.”
The thermal coal Harrison is referring to is what’s being proposed to be shipped out of Fraser Surrey Docks with a final destination in Asia. Harrison said that coal comes from Wyoming and would be eventually burned to generate electricity — which could be avoided using less-environmentally harmful ways of generating power such as through hydro dams.
“Putting stickers on lamp posts and bus stops and so on is irrelevant,” Harrison said, adding her son spotted such a sticker about two weeks ago.
“I find it kind of an odd campaign.”
The campaign website states, accurately, that the majority of coal mined in B.C. is metallurgic coal, not thermal coal, which is protested by environmentalists.
“The majority of opposition to coal in B.C. is centred around thermal coal," said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, a group that runs a campaign called Coal Free BC. "But worldwide, steel production accounts for 5 to 10% of all human-caused CO2 emissions."
Coste says B.C. needs to look at more sustainable ways of using metallurgic coal on a global scale, including re-using steel and not starting coal mines in areas with local opposition.
The My Name Is Coal campaign is in favour of fostering renewable resources, but not halting energy production and jobs, said Bothe, adding it takes time to transition.
“I’m all for the planet. I have a green heart, but my mind is thinking about the economy, and what’s best for this country,” Bothe said. “At some point, there needs to be a balance.”
The Vancouver-based campaign has spread globally, with demand for stickers now in Europe and the U.S., he said.
The group’s website and video can be viewed at hellomynameiscoal.com.
This article has been updated from its original version to include more information about Jason Bothe and his professional affiliation with a pro-coal lobby association.