Mining for votes

San Francisco isn’t on Barack Obama’s itinerary in the 24 hours before polls open, and perhaps it’s just as well; he seems to have a knack for putting his foot in his mouth every time he gets near the city by the bay. It was during a stop-off in San Fran that Obama sparked a firestorm by calling small-town Americans “bitter”; now the McCain campaign is pounding the Illinois senator for telling the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year that his cap-and-trade proposals would “bankrupt” anyone who built new coal plants.

“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama told the Chronicle. “It's just that it will bankrupt them, because they're going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted.”

The full interview, in which Obama also pledged his support for clean-coal technology and called the idea of scrapping coal altogether “an illusion”, has been freely available on the Chronicle’s web site since January. Now, though, with McCain’s dwindling electoral prospects dependent on winning the Ohio and Pennsylvania coal-belts, the campaign has pounced on the remarks as evidence that Obama has a radical anti-coal agenda. Sarah Palin falsely and ludicrously accused the “liberal media” of covering up the interview, and said that Obama’s climate plan would “bankrupt the coal industry, and he's comfortable letting that happen.”

Palin’s comments - underscored by robocalls highlighting “Barack Obama's plans to bankrupt the coal industry” and McCain’s own claims to be “a coal booster” - are a pretty wild distortion of what Obama actually said. As I wrote recently, the notion that Obama - a product of Illinois coal-state politics - is radically anti-coal is utter bilge-water; in fact, Obama said not that he would bankrupt the entire coal industry, but rather that cap-and-trade would make it unprofitable for new plants to be built without technology in place to reduce their emissions. (“If we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, we can allow the market to determine, and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what's the best approach to take,” he added.)

That’s not a radical threat, it’s a simple statement of fact: making it unprofitable to emit carbon, and encouraging the market to adjust in response, is the essence of cap-and-trade. That’s as true of the McCain camp’s own cap-and-trade plan as it is of Obama’s climate strategy; in that sense, these last-ditch attacks ultimately raise fewer questions about Obama’s commitment to the coal sector than they do about McCain and Palin’s dwindling commitment to tackling climate change.

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Ohio Coal Association Says Obama Remarks Make It Clear: Obama Ticket Not Supportive of Coal

Last update: 10:42 a.m. EST Nov. 3, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov 03, 2008 /PRNewswire--USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association (OCA), today issued the following statement in response to just-released remarks from Senator Barack Obama about the nation's coal industry.
"Regardless of the timing or method of the release of these remarks, the message from the Democratic candidate for President could not be clearer: the Obama-Biden ticket spells disaster for America's coal industry and the tens of thousands of Americans who work in it.
"These undisputed, audio-taped remarks, which include comments from Senator Obama like 'I haven't been some coal booster' and 'if they want to build [coal plants], they can, but it will bankrupt them' are extraordinarily misguided.
"It's evident that this campaign has been pandering in states like Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania to attempt to generate votes from coal supporters, while keeping his true agenda hidden from the state's voters.
"Senator Obama has revealed himself to be nothing more than a short- sighted, inexperienced politician willing to say anything to get a vote. But today, the nation's coal industry and those who support it have a better understanding of his true mission, to 'bankrupt' our industry, put tens of thousands out of work and cause unprecedented increases in electricity prices.
"In addition to providing an affordable, reliable source of low-cost electricity, domestic coal holds the key to our nation's long-term energy security - a goal that cannot be overlooked during this time of international instability and economic uncertainty.
"Few policy areas are more important to our economic future than energy issues. As voters head to the polls tomorrow, it is essential they remember that access to reliable, affordable, domestic energy supplies is essential to economic growth and stability."
The Ohio Coal Association (OCA) is a non-profit trade association representing the interests of Ohio's underground and surface coal mining producers. The OCA represents nearly 40 coal producing companies and more than 50 Associate Members, which include suppliers and consultants to the mining industry, coal sales agents and brokers and allied industries. The Ohio Coal Association is committed to advancing the development and utilization of Ohio coal as an abundant, economic and environmentally sound energy source.
SOURCE Ohio Coal Association

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