Miners' union: McCain camp 'twisting the truth' on Obama, coal
Nick Juliano
Published: Monday November 3, 2008

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John McCain's campaign has apparently decided its last, best hope to defy the odds and prevail Tuesday lies in a distorted, out-of-context, months-old clip of Barack Obama talking about coal.

McCain has claimed Obama wants to "bankrupt" the coal industry, based on a clip from a January interview with the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board. The clip was posted online by the same YouTube user who last month unearthed and heavily edited a 2001 clip of Obama speaking to Chicago Public Radio. This time, the coal clip followed the same path to prominence as the previous mini-scandal: from YouTube, to right-wing blog, to the Drudge Report, to Fox News to McCain stump speech.

Obama was discussing his support for a cap & trade system to reduce carbon emissions, which would create a market on which companies could trade emissions credits.

Such a system, proponents say, would reduce pollution while spurring investment in cleaner sources of energy. Obama also has said he supports "clean coal" technology, which researchers hope would allow exploitation of coal power without as much pollution.

"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," Obama said in January, referring to traditional coal plants.

Suddenly worried about all the jobs such "bankrupting" would cause, McCain made the line a central point when he spoke in Virginia Monday. The GOP candidate trails there and in Ohio, two states President Bush carried in 2000 and 2004.

The union representing coal miners came to Obama's defense Monday.

"Sen. John McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, have once again demonstrated that they are willing to say anything and do anything to win this election. Their latest twisting of the truth is about coal and some comments Sen. Obama made last January about the future use of coal in America," said Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, in a statement released Monday afternoon.

Roberts noted that McCain and the Republicans ignored Obama's overall point during his interview.

The Democratic candidate told the Chronicle, "This notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion," noting the amount of energy the US dervies from coal. Obama pushed for development of technology to sequester carbon emissions, the central tenant of so called "clean" coal.

"Despite what the McCain campaign and some far right-wing blogs would have Americans believe, Sen. Obama has been and remains a tremendous supporter of coal and the future of coal," Roberts said.

The coal issue is a particularly tricky one for McCain. Before he became the Republican Party's presidential nominee, McCain demonstrated his willingness to diverge from GOP orthodoxy on climate change and environmental regulation. In 2003, he and Sen. Joe Lieberman co-sponsored one of the first cap and trade bills in the Senate aimed at reducing carbon emissions. McCain removed his name from a similar measure that was debated earlier this year.

Indeed, on his Web site, McCain still touts his proposal for a cap and trade system and development of low-emissions alternatives. Surely he and Obama would quibble on the details of such a system, but they share the same basic goals.

Nonetheless, the coal industry traditionally supports Republicans, and John McCain is now the party's nominee. So the industry is doing its part to flog the campaign's latest talking point painting Obama as anti-coal.

"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," said Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association and a short-lived former Republican congressional candidate.