On the eve of election day, the debate on clean coal vs. no coal has reared its head again, injecting back into the campaign anxiety over what a cap-and-trade program will mean for America’s huge coal industry. Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, campaigning along the Ohio-West Virginia border, today attacked Obama, claiming that the Democratic presidential candidate plans to bankrupt the coal industry. With coal-producing states like Pennsylvania, Virgina and Colorado being hotly contested in this election, such attacks carry extra weight.
Palin cites an audio clip, from an interview Obama did with the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year,
released promoted online Sunday. In the section she cites, Obama explains the impact his cap-and-trade carbon scheme will have on coal power: “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama said. “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 Obama campaign responded, calling the quote “wildly edited.” That hasn’t stopped the RNC, which has reportedly already incorporated the sound byte into a new robocall.
This isn’t the first time the McCain campaign has attacked the Obama campaign over comments regarding coal. In September, Joe Biden made a gaffe and was videotaped telling a rally-goer: “We’re not supporting clean coal.” He and his running mate are, in fact, supporting clean coal. Palin cited this incident last week in an attack on Obama’s energy plan during a policy speech at the facility of thin-film solar startup Xunlight in Ohio.
Looking at Obama’s full interview with the San Francisco Chronicle shows that he does indeed support clean coal, so long as the market will support it. “The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what the best approach is to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.” No wonder venture capitalists prefer Obama to McCain six to one.