More on Coal, Bankrupt and Otherwise

By November 3, 2008Energy, Global Warming

Lots of reaction to the remarks by Senator Barack Obama to the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board in January saying that the coal industry and utilities could never build a new coal-fired power plant because his Administration’s policies would “bankrupt” them.

The key quote from Sen. Obama:

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 wind, solar, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I have 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 a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

The reaction from Gov. Palin, campaigning in Marietta, Ohio.

Now a couple points on this: One is that here again, why is the audio tape just now surfacing? 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.

The value of the information is unquestionable, but the interview had been on the Chronicle’s SFGate website since January, which hardly seems like suppression. Instead, it appears that the Chronicle’s reporters and editors missed the news. Hardly a surprise: In California, killing off productive sectors of the economy is considered sport. They probably just didn’t recognize that Senator Obama’s position was all that unusual. Candidates and Congress demonize and single out the oil industry for punitive tax and regulatory policies, what makes coal that special?

On the other hand, you would have expected someone from the RNC or McCain campaign to listen to the interview at some point and identify the issue, perhaps bringing it up in a debate or a campaign ad. We used to hear about something called “opposition research.” Apparently it’s gone out of fashion.

The Obama campaign responded, as reported in the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail, calling the remarks “wildly edited” to take them out of context. Really? “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them…” From a campaign statement:

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.

So that’s what’s happening to all those banks and investment houses in the financial crisis. They’re “incentivizing” themselves.

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland also responded for the Obama campaign, or rather, changed the subject.

After John McCain said he’d like to ‘transition away from coal entirely,’ his campaign is hardly in a position to criticize a coal state Senator like Barack Obama who has outlined a $150 billion investment in clean coal and other technologies to create jobs and build a new energy economy. The truth is, John McCain and Sarah Palin can’t name a single thing they’d do differently on the economy than George Bush, so all they have to offer is last minute, desperate distortions. Hardworking families don’t need more Washington-style political attacks, they need a President who will create jobs and stand up for the middle class – and that’s Barack Obama.

Well, that’s substantive. Wonder if middle class people work in the coal industry or use electricity. Nah…

And from the coal industry, again from the Daily Mail.

[The ] senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association said Obama’s comments about bankrupting builders of coal-fired plants are unbelievable.

“His comments are unfortunate,” Chris Hamilton told the West Virginia Record Sunday, “and really reflect a very uninformed voice and perspective to coal specifically and energy generally.”

That’s a generous, politically savvy expression of sorrow and regret. Then again, you would expect a candidate from Illinois to be pretty well informed on the coal industry. Perhaps he said what he meant.

UPDATE (1:25 p.m.): A very tough statement from the Ohio Coal Association. Found at Michelle Malkin’s post, “The truth serum in San Francisco.”

Brent Bozell, Media Research Center, on media’s coverage of the coal remarks.

BRENT BOZELL, MRC President: When you see the public by a factor of 10-to-1 understands that the media are out to get Sarah Palin, that’s good. On the other hand, what the public doesn’t know is that all the stories that aren’t being covered by the media. It’s the bias by omission. If they listen to talk radio, they’ll hear it. If they watch your news program, they’ll understand it. But if they’re watching ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and the like, there are all these stories about Barack Obama they simply do not know.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • […] said below, it should come as no surprise that the San Francisco Chronicle’s team of editors and […]

  • This issue alone should settle the election.
    In the midst of an energy crisis the Obama/Biden team is talking about bankrupting the singles largest source of our electricity.
    How are we going to power electric cars if we close electric power plants?
    Electric cars are the only way to truly break the dependence on foreign oil.
    What’s more, these guys oppose nukes and want to keep Yucca mountain from opening.
    This should set off alarm bells.
    And worst of all, it’s more doublespeak. They say one thing in San Fran and another in West Virginia.
    McCain and Palin don’t do that. We can trust them.

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