The Scottish government is planning to green its electricity generation by burning more coal. Yes, you read that right. Coal is green, say ministers in Edinburgh, who in December announced a climate policy that they declared to be the world's most advanced.
And if you can't get your head round that, you are not alone. Nasa's famed climate scientist, Jim Hansen, last week wrote an open letter to the first minister Alex Salmond declaring the policy a "sham".
Should anyone south of the border, or indeed on another continent, care? Well, yes. Later this year, Britain's climate change minister, Ed Miliband,will go to Copenhagen, to sign up to tough new targets on cutting national emissions of greenhouse gases. And that includes Scottish emissions – over which neither Miliband nor anybody in Whitehall seems to have any control. That may mess up the UK's bargaining position - although with the UK government backing the new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent, they are making a good job of that themselves. More importantly though, the atmosphere does not care which country the CO2 comes from or where the coal that produced it was burned. Scotland has one-tenth of Europe's coal and Salmond seems hell-bent on digging it up and setting it alight.
In December, Salmond and his ministers published a climate change bill that promises to cut Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. He does promise more renewable energy, but the push to revive Scotland's coal industry and build new coal-burning power stations is the talk of Edinburgh and a massive snub to a truly green energy policy - which since Scotland has spectacular potential for wind and wave power is indefensible.
The greenwash comes when Salmond and his ministers ape industry propaganda by talking up the world's dirtiest fossil fuel as "clean coal". Take what happened two years ago. Scottish Power announced plans to extend the life of the country's two existing coal-fired stations, at Longannet and Cockenzie, which provide a third of Scotland's electricity. Scottish Power, which is owned by a Spanish company, claimed it wanted to convert the two plants to "clean coal technology".
The new turbines and boilers would cut carbon dioxide emissions by about one-fifth, which its chairman Ignacio Galan claimed would be "a revolutionary change in low-carbon energy generation in Scotland."
Salmond agreed. He used the launch to declare: "Coal is king ... If you can use clean-coal technology, coal has a dynamic future. It means coal, far from being environmentally unacceptable, is becoming environmentally attractive."
This is crazy. Cutting emissions by a fifth still leaves coal as the dirtiest fuel. And Scottish Power's "clean coal" plan will almost certainly result in the two plants emitting more carbon dioxide in the long run, because it will extend their lifetimes. Environmentally attractive? I think not.
Probably what Salmond had in mind was an entirely different technology known as carbon-capture and storage (CCS). The idea of this is to take CO2 emitted from power plants and bury it in old coal mines or beneath the North Sea. The technology is not being fitted at the two plants, or anywhere else. It is a technology in the early stages of development and Scottish Coal agrees it is "some years away".
Salmond's planned new policy on energy, recently out for consultation, will require any future coal power stations to be ready to capture carbon dioxide – should the technology ever become available. That is all.
But let's not let the facts get in the way of a good greenwash. The push for coal in Scotland is big right now. Scottish withdrawal symptoms over the decline of its oil are palpable. Scottish Coal's new chief executive said this week that there were "perhaps billions of tonnes" of coal beneath Scotland. He wants his hands on it.
And Salmond is with him. Last autumn, he promised support for the opening of two new deep coal mines in the country at Canonbie and Longannet. His energy minister, Jim Mather, said "Scotland has huge coal reserves which, alongside our renewables potential, could meet Scotland's electricity needs for many years to come."
In November, the government also applauded plans from a Danish power company, Dong Energy, to build Scotland a third coal-fired plant, at Hunterston. It will be "ready to incorporate carbon capture and storage".
That is what finally did it for Hansen, who is campaigning for a global ban on new coal-fired power stations. "Carbon capture and storage readiness is not an adequate solution. It is a sham that does not guarantee that a single tonne of carbon will be captured in practice," his letter to Salmond said.
It is not the usual policy of this column to attack political parties. They are entitled to their policies. But the clean coal mantra is being repeated with so little regard for the facts that it demands to be challenged every time.
Introducing the new climate change bill in December, Scotland's climate change minister Stewart Stevenson said it "shows that Scotland is at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change."
The truth is that while President Obama is promising green jobs, first minister Salmond is promising black jobs. Last word to Hansen: "The decision to phase out coal use unless the CO2 is captured fully from the outset is a global imperative. We cannot avert our eyes. We must solve the coal problem now."
• How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? Please email your examples of greenwash to firstname.lastname@example.org or add your comments below