The Washington Post Eilperin emissions trick

Dave Burton, via his Facebook page writes:

The Washington Post’s caption says “…emissions spew from the smokestacks at… coal-fired power plant…”

Inline image 4

Do you want to know what propaganda looks like?

Take glance at this article from the Washington Post. The photo at the top is purest propaganda, blatantly and deliberately deceiving readers and smearing a private company:

Here’s the letter I wrote to the Washington Post’s “Reader Representative” (now that they’ve terminated their longstanding Ombudsman position):

From: David Burton Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM
To: “Doug Feaver, Washington Post Reader Representative” <>
Inline image 4 Inline image 5

Dear Mr. Feaver,

Now that there’s no Ombudsman at the Washington Post, do the reporters and editors think truth doesn’t matter?

Here’s a March 15 story by the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin:

This is the lead photo, of Westar Energy’s Jeffrey Energy Center “spewing emissions” from coal:
Inline image 1

Charlie Riedel/AP – Silhouetted against the sky at dusk, emissions spew from the smokestacks at Westar Energy’s Jeffrey Energy Center coal-fired power plant near St. Mary’s, Kan.

And what do you suppose those black, deadly-looking plumes of “emissions” really are?
Condensing steam, that’s what. Just plain water.
Plumes of condensing water vapor normally look white and benign, but by artfully choosing a vantage point to the east of the plant, and a time just after sunset, AP photographer Charlie Riedel managed to make the pretty white plumes look black and threatening.
That power plant has state-of-the-art “scrubbers,” which which cost over $400 million, and which remove 95% of the SO2 and nearly all of the particulate matter. Almost nothing visible is left except steam. Here’s what those same stacks really look like, under normal lighting conditions:

Inline image 3

You’ve got to grudgingly admire the AP / Washington Post’s mastery of the propaganda craft.
I sent an email similar to the above to Westar Energy, and got back the following reply:

———- Begin forwarded message ———-
Date: Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 10:35 AM
Subject: Re: Washington Post / AP propaganda photo – “emissions spew” from power plant
To: David Burton

Hello, and thanks for forwarding this information. 

We have contacted AP numerous times regarding this photo. We agree that it is a skilled photographer using lighting to create a dramatic image that reinforces the story. 

Here’s the latest that Gina Penzig, Director, Corporate Communications, sent: 

I appreciate that Charlie is a skilled photographer who used backlighting to capture a dramatic image of the plant that reinforces the emissions story and the perception that power plants are dirty. I fully acknowledge that plants are a source of emissions and the EPA work to reduce emissions has been important. We’re in the midst of spending billions of dollars to change the make up of that plume from our coal plants to almost completely steam. In fact at JEC, we’re very close. (I’d love to set up a tour and talk about what we’ve done. We’re pretty proud of it.) 

I’d like to point out that the photo is nearly four years old. I’m not asking that it be replaced with a photo that we provide. I’d challenge the photo editors to look up Jeffrey Energy Center on Google images. You will see a variety of photos from a variety of sources that show a more accurate representation of the plant and what it emits. A photographer can easily capture a plant photo from off of our property, but I’d gladly set up an escort for a photographer who would like to go onto the plant site. 

Thank you again for sharing the information with us!
Alice K. Landers
Communications Representative
Corporate Communications
Westar Energy, Inc.
———- End forwarded message ———-
What shameful, shameful misbehavior by the Washington Post!
Please print an apology, and appropriately discipline the responsible parties, and tell me what action you’re taking.

EPA likely to delay climate rules for new power plants

Move could bolster agency’s legal case, but worries environmentalists.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

WP will choose one of 2 options:
a) ignore the complaint completely (most likely, since it’s all about the “narrative” now – the picture is “fake but accurate”.)
b) grudgingly print a note of correction in tiny print on the bottom of page 24, where no one will ever see it, with full knowledge that the damage has been done and the narrative has been advanced.

Amazing that these people will exaggerate to the point that they’re thought to be shameless liars. It would be interesting to find out what religion and political party they are.

Pepco, the power company that supplies D.C. with their electricity, produces 0% of their usage. It buys all its electrical power from the other companies on the grid like Duke & others. The main players should either raise their rates through the roof for the D.C. elite, or cut them off completely. Let them feel the pain they wish to impose on us first this time. Brownouts in D.C. might even save this country some money. No A/C in the summer in D.C. would be great to see.


Did you notice the Westar Energy letter? It says, “We have contacted AP numerous times regarding this photo.”
Considering that, I think their letter is a model of restraint. I’d be more inclined to write something like, “You’ve deliberately deceived your readers into thinking that we’re ‘spewing’ soot into the atmosphere, when you knowthere’s no truth to that at all. You’ve intentionally damaged our company’s reputation with your deception. See you in court, jerks!”

William McClenney

Like a great many things since “Enlightenment”, freedom is just an experiment, one which can succeed or fail. Let there be no question that freedom does indeed carry with it the ability to distort the truth. The experiment is completed when distorted truth distorts freedom.

Henry Galt

We are worked off our feet by their masters. We don’t have time to verify anything but our transport timetable so as not to be late for work. We have to trust the Fourth Estate to expose untruths, villains and criminality. What else do we have?

Ben Wilson

They posted that picture because it fit the narrative.
I wonder just how long it has been that the journalistic profession, as demonstrated by the main stream media, has been quite willing to deceive and mislead their readers to promote their favored ideology. Were they this dishonest 50 years ago? Was it this way 100 years ago, but were they just not exposed like they are on occasion now?
There is no doubt that the way in which the internet has expanded communication that their lies are now more easily exposed.


Deceit is necessary for this cause. Reality is way too benign.

Mark Bofill

The Washington Post clearly didn’t get the message. RealClimate tells us we’re living in Hansen’s scenario C and therefore there have been no increases in atmospheric CO2 for over 13 years now. They can stop running stories on power plants; the power plants aren’t contributing to AGW. See (
Good work Dave. That photo is shameful propaganda.

Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen

A very similar trick was used in the recent book by UK economist ‘Dieter helm ‘The Carbon Crunch’ ..Yale 2003. Cooling towers spewing out black clouds… merging in to a black page.

Sonja B-C


Ongoing green brainwash.
In Germany’s ZEIT newspaper, a young student, living in the woods, under primitive circumstances is presented as “Saving the world”. Posterchild for a new generation. obviously.
How sick are all these people?

Chuck Nolan

I believe this is an opportunity for the press to show they are at least willing to be fair.
The intent of the photo is to show BS.
Now they know it and we know it.
Let’s see how they respond.

lurker, passing through laughing

The WP (like most modern media) is so far removed from reality they couldclaim that the photos they chose are actually better because they show in better detail the actual amounts of emissions from the wicked plants. Next the WP will whine away at the power companies for daring to raise prices to cover for the extra costs of wind and ever more scrubbers and new nat. gas plants.

Politics politics !!!!
Good points,meanwhile countries around the world are passing us up with renewable resources of energy such as Solar. Did you know with the help Government subsidies Germany is the leader in solar power accounting for over 30 percent of their residential energy.

Crispin in Waterloo but actually in Phnom Penh

I recall that same photo being exposed as a misrepresentation at the time it was taken, not so? It seems someone did not perform any due diligence.
It is not the least surprising that a mendacious tagline is attached to anything to do with a coal plant because if things were judged on facts there would be a very different outcome for public opinion.

Theo Goodwin

Thanks for standing in the gap for journalism. The Post should send a memo to all their journalists and photographers that propaganda is beneath them. The Post should run an apology for this photo.


This image is almost surely faked. Do a simple test. Use youre favorite image pgm and click on “negative”, (some pgms call it ‘invert colors’). The sky is a lovely natural blue and the ‘smoke’ is white water vapor and fluffy white clouds. The chimneys are unnaturally all pure white, indicating in-filling. Suggestion: put “click for WAPO version” on the image. It really is obvious.

Ian Blanchard

I complained to the BBC about something very similar about 5 years or so ago and actually had some success in stopping them using a similarly lit picture of cooling towers showing ’emissions’. They did though reject the remainder of my complaint which related to a TV news item on coastal erosion of the East Anglian coast and how it was the fault of extreme weather based on model predictions (anyone that knows the first thing about geology knows that erosion has been a serious issue along the east coast of England for as long as records have been kept).

Dave L

Do what I did: cancel your subscription to the local socialist Democrat newspaper. Refuse to support evil.


If you were to blow powdered charcoal into the air, would it even appear so black?


@wwschmidt & four-of-them
As an amateur photographer I can attest that there is nothing fake about the photograph. The sky is the color it is because it was taken facing into the sunset. I have plenty of photos with sky that looks like that. The steam plumes are dark because they were photographed from a vantage point where they are vary weakly back lit so little light is comming through the plumes to reach the camera nor is their any light comming from behind the camera to illuminate the plumes.
That image can be redily produced inside a camera with no trikery at all. It’s all about the lighting.


four-of-them, that seems excessively complicated. Just waiting for sunset could easily yield an image like that.
Invert this one (just searched for photos of smokestacks at sunset) and you get similar blue sky.
Taking a misleading photo seems easier than outright fraud, and with no risk.


Most of the UK media have been pulling this trick for years.
Eventually you get tired of complaining, I’m afraid.


Gee, it isn’t the first time. The standard environmental report is the reporter standing in front of a cooling tower or stack with billowing white clouds as, usually, she talks about pollution. That leaves the viewer under the impression that pollution is spewing from those stacks. Every time they see the white clouds, they will know it is pollution. Water vapor makes a great visual and the media have used this visual to falsely depict pollution for years. I’ve written broadcasters and some print media for many years. It is pointless for a single person to complain about this propaganda. I know I’m tired of doing it. Why do you think the EPA and others can get away with absolutely stupid things? The population has been long brainwashed.
When you see your local media doing stupid stuff like this, write them a letter of complaint. Not sure it will change them, but maybe you’ll feel better.


“Careful not step on Wapo.”


Ohhh, but that is water vapour pouring from those stacks. Water vapour is ten times more potent as a greenhouse gas, than CO2. Yikes!!
Close this power station down immediately. We all want to go back to the good old Middle Ages, when everything was Green and wonderful.
Hey, its bl**dy cold in here, who turned the electricity off? Hey, open that power station again, I’m freezing….

Martin Hodgkins

Well I recently did some work for an examinations board and all the science papers had climate change questions in them and to let the kids know what they meant they all had photos of cooling towers. So what’s new?


Prof Mackay, a UK government advisor on renewable energy, did something similar. He wrote a paper saying that electric vehicles were five times more efficient than fossil fueled cars.
What the disingenuous professor had done, of course, is to ignore all the inefficiencies involved in creating electricity from fossil fuels and transmitting it to the vihicle. But when such disingenuous advice like this is going direct to brain-dead government ministers, who suck up green propaganda like this like blotting paper, it is more like fraud.

bill said:
March 20, 2013 at 9:20 am
Amazing that these people will exaggerate to the point that they’re thought to be shameless liars. It would be interesting to find out what religion and political party they are.
They are warmunists; their religion and political party are the same thing: extreme leftism.


@wwschmidt & four-of-them
I was going to say exactly the same thing as MattS. Of course if you switch to the opposite colours of black and sepia they will come out as white and blue but that doesn’t mean that that is what they were originally.
Shoot any similar chimney against the sky near a sunset and you will get a broadly similar image. The dishonesty is not with the photographer unless they misrepresented the image.


Ben Wilson @9:36 am
During the lead in to the Spanish American War, in 1898, legend has it William Randolph Hearst sent an illustrator to cover a revolution in Cuba. The illustrator cabled Hearst and told him there wasn’t any revolution. Hearst is said to have told him ‘You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.’.
So apparently what is happening today with the main stream media is nothing new.

Eyes Wide Open

Just cut of electical power to the Washington Post. That might get their attention!

My advice to Westar: Sue the WhitewashPost for enough to put them out of business.


legaltrex2013 wrote on March 20, 2013 at 9:58 am, “Did you know with the help Government subsidies Germany is the leader in solar power accounting for over 30 percent of their residential energy.”
Germany is, indeed, the country most heavily invested in Wind and PV (solar panel) electric generation. But they aren’t getting 30% of their electricity from solar. In 2012 it was only about 5%.
I recently posted the following comment on a blog site about their dismal Wind Power results:
Nuclear capacity factors are typically around 90%, but [based on this report] the German nation-wide average wind capacity factor for 2012 was apparently just under 17.5% [45867 GWh/yr / (29.9 GW * 24 * 366) = 0.1746]. I.e., actual generated power was 17.5% of nameplate capacity, despite the fact that a lot of their windmills are pretty new, and electricity prices there are so extraordinarily high there (thanks to the “green” politics) that there’s a strong incentive to keep the turbines well-maintained and running. Where electricity prices are lower, that incentive fades. I expect wind to blow, but that really sucks.
And, believe it or not, PV (solar panels) fared even worse. Even when you adjust for the fact that a lot of the German solar panels are new, and were only online for part of the year, the average German PV capacity factor in 2012 was just 10.5%.


“which remove 95% of the SO2 and nearly all of the particulate matter. ”
Ignore those reductions in real pollutants thanks to advancing technology. We just can’t have CO2 released and our Ministry of Truth will tell you what is real. Deceptive is the polite term.


Which is why every time a reporter is laid off, an angel gets his wings.


AP = Agenda Pushers
Don’t see anything resembling journalism…


Woops! Link does not work.
Just go to Google images and enter the search term “CO2 pollution”. Miracolo!! The “Invisible Gas” is made visible! Hundreds of images…all bad, as bad as you any which way you want.


It is indeed propaganda, but then again, it serves their advocacy position. Another subliminal trick is to show a cooling tower backlit. The viewer sees the “pollution” (which truly is 100% H2O plus many believe it’s a nuclear plant…the best of all deceptions!!!


Any industrial plant like the photo that spewed exhaust from its stack actually like the portrayal would be shut down instantly by federal, state and local clean air authorities. Pollution abatement techniques have been in place for decades that truly make the air clean. You can’t get a dirty plume like the photo unless there is pollution control equipment failures.
Remember too, CO2 is an orderless, colorless gas. What is shown in the photo is mostly water vapor presented in a tricked up lighting.

The way to get the message across to The Washington Post is clearly give them the impression that people have caught on. Once a liar is a known liar, his attitude about lying changes a lot.

Mac the Knife

Photographic technique for dramatic, sinister effects – Yes.
Photographic documentation of pollution – No.

Barry Cullen

@Dave Burton; it’s not propaganda, it is agitprop, plain and simple.

Peter Miller

The greenies have ensured there are unsustainable amounts of seals living on the shores of eastern Canada, which have destroyed the huge fish populations which once used to live there.
The harp seal population has grown almost 700% to 8 million over the past 30 years – see official Canadian government figures:
However, in the area of Hudson Bay, which is the subject of this study, the ringed seal is dominant. Unlike other seal populations, this one is declining and is subject to occasional catastrophic decline – almost amusingly, this seems to occur in years when there is an abnormal amount of winter ice. I would suggest polar bear health is all about the relative size of seal populations and has almost nothing to do with supposed climate change:


The mainstream media continues to struggle financially with the loss of readers and advertising. They do not understand that they are the architects of their own decline, it is their own dishonest reporting that has driven the explosion in blogging and the other alternative news sources to whom they are losing market-share.


wwschmidt says:
“they’ll print it on page 24”. (first post 9.05 am)
Do they still have that many pages?

Peter in Ohio

If you search Google images for “Jeffrey Energy Center” the first image is another of Riedel’s – a little more steamy but certainly “scary” enough to fool the average person. What both images have in common is that they are cropped to ensure nobody can see the end/edge of the emissions. A lot more people will recognize the emissions as steam if they see the edges where the steam disappears in a way that smoke will not.

Frank K.

Sean says:
March 20, 2013 at 12:04 pm
Sean is correct, and we can all do something by refusing to purchase their products, and encouraging our friends and contacts to do the same. If someone says they read something in the New York Times or Washington Post, I would challenge them on its veracity, and ask them why they are throwing away their hard-earned money on crap. They may not like that response, but it will make them think twice about the sources of their news. And by most polling, new reporters have about as much trustworthiness as used car salesmen (and certain climate scientists).