Sen. John McCain’s Republican campaign is looking to capitalize on an interview in which Sen. Barack Obama proposed placing such heavy government fees on coal plants that the industry would either have to clean its emissions or go “bankrupt.”
“If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama said in an interview with the San Francisco 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.”
Publicity over the plan to use “carbon credits” to force the coal industry to either clean up its emissions or get out of business comes on the heels of news that Obama plans to use “price signals” to control America’s energy use, and Republicans have pounced on Obama’s words with an aggressive campaign in the coal-rich battleground states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
ABC News reports a robocall being made to voters that focuses on Obama’s “bankrupt” comment.
“I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC to tell you that coal jobs, which are so important to our community are in jeopardy,” says the call. “Listen to Barack Obama’s plans to bankrupt the coal industry.” The call then plays audio of Obama’s words, quoted above.
In the San Francisco Chronicle interview, originally taped Jan. 17, Obama also defended himself against those environmentalists who wanted him to categorically declare coal an unclean energy source.
“The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal – I haven’t been some coal booster,” Obama explained. “What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.”
In the coal-rich state of Pennsylvania, McCain was quick to work Obama’s words about not being “a coal booster” into his campaign.
“My friends, you know what Senator Obama said about a year ago,” the Washington Post reported McCain saying to a Pennsylvania crowd. “He said he had not been a, quote, coal booster.
“My friends, I’ve been a coal booster and it’s going to create jobs, and we’re going to export coal to other countries and we are going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” McCain said. “That’s going to help restore the economy of the great state of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
ABC News reports the Obama campaign is alleging the Democratic senator’s words were taken out of context.
“The line they pulled out is in the context of cap-and-trade programs,” said an Obama spokesperson. “The point Obama is making is that we need to transition from coal-burning power plants built with old technology to plants built with advanced technologies – and that is exactly the action that will be incentivized under a cap-and-trade program.”
The fuller context of Obama’s comments is below:
Let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. 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. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal – I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach.
Campaigning in Marietta, Ohio, CNN reports, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin led the crowd to believe the San Francisco Chronicle buried the “bankrupt” quote, since the newspaper didn’t include it in the article published about the interview.
“Why is the audiotape just now surfacing?” Palin asked. “This interview was given to San Francisco folks many, many months ago. You should have known about this, so that you would have better decision-making information as you go into the voting booth.”
Despite the fact the McCain’s own campaign site also proposes a cap-and-trade system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, Palin attacked her Democratic opponent for threatening to “bankrupt” businesses in an industry key to Pennsylvania’s economy.
“He said that, sure, if the industry wants to build coal-fired power plants, then they can go ahead and try,” said Palin, “but they can do it only in a way that will bankrupt the coal industry, and he’s comfortable letting that happen.”