Coal State Gov. Sides with Obama on 'Bankrupting' Industry

     The revelation that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama would bankrupt the coal industry “for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” has prompted harsh reaction from various pro-coal constituencies. But the governor of one coal state welcomed the promise.


     West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, appeared on CNBC’s Nov. 3 “Power Lunch” to discuss the effects the presidential election would have on the economy. He told co-anchor Trish Regan that despite anti-coal remarks Obama made to the San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 17, the Democrats’ presidential candidate “understands” the nation’s energy woes.


     “Basically he understands this country must become secure,” Manchin said. “We should not be dependent on foreign oil. In order to do that, we got to use all of our resources. Coal’s going to be a major factor for next 20, 30 or more years. But we have a responsibility to clean it up.”


     Manchin, who is heavily favored in his reelection bid, told CNBC that cap-and-trade or a carbon tax – which would cause energy prices to “skyrocket,” according to Obama – were  inevitable possibilities.


     “West Virginia – we understand that,” Manchin said. “We’re going to have a very aggressive renewable portfolio, but we need that partnership and Barack brings that leadership to us. He brings that partnership coming from a coal state himself. Now, they’re going to have to pay for the carbons – whether a cap-and-trade or whether it’s in a carbon tax.”


     But opposition to coal hasn’t helped candidates in West Virginia in the past. In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore made the mistake of siding against the coal industry in favoring a “fossil-fuelless vision,” as a Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail editorial pointed out.


     “He sent a letter to the United Mine Workers last month,” the Oct. 2, 2000 editorial said. “But he remains committed to a fossil- fuelless vision of the future that has already done great damage both to West Virginia and to the reliability of the nation’s power supply. Gore conceded in his letter to West Virginia miners only that his energy policies will cost West Virginia jobs, and that he’d come up with some kind of job program to deal with it. That’s thin soup indeed.”


     Gore went on to lose West Virginia and its five electoral votes. President George W. Bush became the first Republican presidential challenger to carry West Virginia in 72 years and ultimately won the presidency by a margin of only four electoral votes, 271-267.


     Gore’s position on coal is similar to the recently unveiled controversial remarks Obama made about coal earlier this year.


     “If somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 17, 2008. “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.”


     Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, said Obama’s remarks spell “disaster” for the coal industry.


    “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,” Carney said in a release on Nov. 3. “Senator Obama has revealed himself to be nothing more than a short- sighted, inexperienced politician willing to say anything to get a vote.”