NBC Begins 'Green Week' With Energy Double Standard; Ironically Favors Coal Power in Dam Tear-Down Story

On any other day, NBC "Nightly News" would be attacking coal for being a dirty pollutant and advocating reliance on other forms of energy.

But on Nov. 15, as it began the first of its "Our Planet" segments for green week, the network used coal power as part of the argument in favor of destroying manmade dams.

"This is what the dams harness: the power of the Elwha to generate electricity. Impressive, even vital 100 years ago. But today the dams are no longer needed. Now with coal, wind and solar power, repairing the dams is just too expensive," said chief environmental correspondent Anne Thompson.

Thompson has often attacked coal power on NBC. On Feb. 21, 2009 she offered viewers plenty of reasons why building a much needed coal plant in Nevada was a bad idea. She has also supported the idea of capping carbon emissions, which would increase the cost of coal power.

But in this segment, Thompson presented the destruction of hydroelectric dams as a positive thing, bringing rivers back "to their natural state" for the sake of fish.

"The Chinook salmon in Washington State's Elwha River are between a rock and a hard place. The hard place is this 108-foot high dam - one of two dams on the Elwha - blocking the salmon's journey upstream to spawn. Not for much longer," said Thompson.

Thompson reported that about 40 dams per year are being torn down in the U.S., but failed to mention that many tear-downs are controversial, and included no criticism of plans to tear down the Elwha dam.

That's in keeping with network practice. In 2007, the Business & Media Institute found the network news ignoring such dam removals, which were being promoted by left-wing environmental groups like Environmental Defense, the Sierra Club and others.

A BMI Special Report found that in 13 months of coverage, not one network story touched on the subject of dams coming under siege by environmentalists. During that same time, the top five newspapers did 65 stories on the controversy surrounding just one of the potential tear-downs.

Hydroelectric power is a renewable energy resource according to the Environmental Protection Agency, so the form of power should be embraced by environmentalists who want to end reliance on fossil fuels and end global warming. Yet those are the very people crusading to destroy these dams.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.