Coal Tattoo

Gov. Romney: ‘And by the way, I like coal’

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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama, right, debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In a debate that was supposed to be about the economy and domestic issues, both President Obama and Gov. Romney last night sure didn’t talk much about energy or — heaven forbid — global warming. And it was obvious we couldn’t count on moderator Jim Lehrer to bring up these issues. Perhaps we should just be glad that they didn’t bring in some science denier to handle that topic.

Gov. Romney did take several swipes at the president’s support for “green energy”, including this:

Energy is critical, and the president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the U.S. is up. But not due to his policies. In spite of his policies.

Mr. President, all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land, not on government land. On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half. If I’m president, I’ll double them, and also get the — the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I’ll bring that pipeline in from Canada.

And, by the way, I like coal. I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal. People in the coal industry feel like it’s getting crushed by your policies. I want to get America and North America energy independent so we can create those jobs.

Previously in the campaign, President Obama has tried to play himself as the real supporter of the coal industry, but he didn’t really respond at all last night to these in-person allegations — to talk about his own efforts to encourage “clean coal,” to outline all of the reasons tougher regulation of the coal industry is needed (see here, here, here and here for example), or to explain that what’s happening now in the coalfields can’t be reduced to the simple story line Gov. Romney has embraced.

Instead, President Obama let Gov. Romney get away with some wild statements about the administration’s efforts on climate change and clean energy, as explained by a variety of news organizations and commentators  including  The Washington Post, the NRDC, The New York Times, and Climate Progress. In analyzing the president’s responses on this, my buddy Michael Grunwald at Time magazine explained:

He certainly didn’t mention that the stimulus included an unprecedented $90 billion for clean energy, and when Romney did, Obama didn’t explain how it launched a quiet green revolution, or correct Romney’s egregious suggestion that thousands of stimulus-funded companies have failed. I can’t even think of a half dozen. Romney talked about “losers” like Solyndra and Ener1; why didn’t Obama respond with winners like Envia Systems, which has developed the world’s most powerful electric-vehicle battery, or Silver Spring, which is building millions of smart meters for a modern electric grid? Romney mocked wind and solar; why not mention that wind has doubled, solar has increased over 600%, and they now combine to power 15 million homes with clean domestic electricity?

Taking off from there, when Gov. Romney attacks President Obama on coal issues, why doesn’t the president talk about his administration’s efforts — stalled by the Republican Congress — to end black lung disease? Why doesn’t he explain that part of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing on mountaintop removal is to protect coalfield residents who are put at greater risk of serious illnesses if they live near large-scale mining operations? Why doesn’t the president remind Americans that EPA’s air pollution rules on power plants are simply a long-0verdue implementation of the 1990 Clean Air Act?