Coal Tattoo

Well … there’s another ad out from Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Raese, in which Raese continues to allege that Sen. Joe Manchin supports the actions the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has taken to try to reduce the environmental damage, public health impacts, and global warming effects of the coal industry.

The ad is called “Gang of Four” and it goes like this:

Lisa Jackson, Cecil Roberts, Barack Obama, and Joe Manchin … It’s the gang of four; The end of coal. The president and his EPA have been waging war on West Virginia  coal and the people who should be fighting for coal – Cecil Roberts and Joe Manchin – have supported the Obama administration every step of the way.

You can watch the ad yourself here:

But come on … let’s call this one like it is. The ad is just wrong. It’s false. Sen. Manchin and Cecil Roberts have most definitely not supported the Obama administration’s coal and energy policies every step of the way.

For example, and let’s just start with Sen. Manchin … As governor, he ordered the state Department of Environmental Protection to file a lawsuit to try to block the EPA’s crackdown on mountaintop removal.  As a Senator, Manchin has sponsored legislation aimed at curtailing EPA efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and just yesterday vowed his support for a Republican measure aimed at blocking EPA rules to reduce toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, emphasizing in the process his belief that EPA has a “jobs-killing agenda.”  And really, what more does Cecil Roberts need to say or do to show where he stands on Lisa Jackson and EPA given comments like this:

… The Navy Seals shot Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and Lisa Jackson shot us in Washington, so there you go.

Of course, one of the problems here is that there are real issues related to coal’s impacts, and West Virginia’s political leadership — from Sen. Manchin to Rep. Rahall, from Gov. Tomblin to Cecil Roberts — not only doesn’t want to address them, but doesn’t want to talk about them — wants to pretend they don’t exist.

But the other problem for these Democrats is political.  They’ve spent four years telling everyone about President Obama and his “war on coal” and now the Republicans are — logically, if you want to win a political campaign — turning the issue around and using it against Sen. Manchin and Gov. Tomblin. It reminds me of how I wondered about the UMWA’s strategy back during the 2000 election, when they had spent plenty of time criticizing then-Vice President Gore’s stance on coal and global warming issues, but then somehow expected union members to forget all about that and vote for Gore. As the pro-coal and anti-Obama rhetoric from Democrats has increased, it only makes sense that their ability to turn around and get Democratic voters back on board with their ticket decreases.

So why don’t Democratic leaders like Sen. Manchin, Gov. Tomblin, Rep. Rahall — and even Cecil Roberts — stop it with the “war on coal” stuff, and start telling a more truthful narrative about all of this, as The Associated Press did in its story yesterday:

Utilities are aggressively ditching coal in favor of natural gas, which has become cheaper as supplies grow. Natural gas has other advantages over coal: It produces far fewer emissions of toxic chemicals and gases that contribute to climate change, key attributes as tougher environmental rules go into effect.

Now coal is being beaten at its own game. Natural gas has become a cheap and abundant domestic resource, too. And it is more environmentally friendly.

“Even without the EPA rules, coal is not really competitive,” Wang says.

If they did that, Democrats could then start talking about the real challenges facing West Virginia’s coalfields: Things like how to protect public health, how to clean up the damage from mountaintop removal, what to do about the impending decline in Central Appalachian coal production, how to protect worker safety and health, how to encourage deployment of carbon capture and storage technology, and how to provide a more sustainable, more diverse, long-term economy for residents.