A Viewer’s Guide to NatGeo’s "From the Ashes": Why It Belongs in the Ashes

Published October 10, 2017

On October 9, 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the White House will withdraw the Clean Power Plan, an anti-fossil-fuels regulatory legacy of the Barack Obama era. Pruitt was met with great applause as he told coal miners in Kentucky, “The war on coal is over.”

While energy producers and consumers in the United States rightly celebrated that political victory, the war against coal rages on in the popular culture. A recent documentary from National Geographic, From the Ashes, is a perfect example.

This Policy Brief, titled “A Viewer’s Guide to NatGeo’s From the Ashes,” separates fact from fiction and concludes:

From the Ashes offers an out-of-context and inaccurate perspective that will mislead rather than enlighten minds about the history and future of one of the country’s most abundant energy resources.

In a succinct 14 pages, the authors make seven key points about the film:

1. The provenance of Ashes suggests it is highly biased.
2. Carbon dioxide is not “pollution.”
3. The international war on coal is a war on prosperity.
4. Using clean coal is not creating an ozone problem.
5. Using clean coal is not a major cause of asthma.
6. Renewable energy cannot economically replace coal.
7. Renewables are not so clean.

They conclude:

With From the Ashes, National Geographic deviated from the path of producing interesting and science-based documentaries, and instead joined the ranks of advocates, special-interest groups, and alarmists offering a distorted and inaccurate vision of the role of fossil fuels in human civilization. Instead of raising its voice to educate and inform the public about an important public policy controversy, National Geographic chose to produce a propaganda film painting fossil fuels as a destroyer of lives and health. It ignored and hid all facts that run contrary to its narrative. It chose storytelling over truth-telling.