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A Deceptive Photograph at the Washington Post

Recently, the Washington Post‘s Juliet Eilperin ran an article lamenting how the Obama administration is weakening some regulations proposed by the EPA that would apply to coal-fired power plants.

Accompanying the article was the photo, at left, of a power plant near St. Mary’s, Kansas owned by Westar Energy.

However, as the blog “Watts Up With That” documents, the apparent smoke in the photo is only water vapor:

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 a photo, posted at Watts Up With That, that shows what the stacks look like under normal lighting:ricochet.W.Post.deceptive.photo.2.jpg

Westar Energy sent an email to the Post, documenting the inaccuracies. The Post has yet to issue a correction or apology.

For the top photo, the Washington Post ran the following caption: “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.” Note that the water vapor is described by the phrase “emissions spew.” Note also that the Post calls the stacks “smokestacks,” although it’s not smoke that is coming out of the stacks. Such phrases and the lack of a correction or apology make me believe that the deception was intentional.