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

October 4, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

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?

19 Responses to “Gov. Romney: ‘And by the way, I like coal’”

  1. rgriffith says:

    There were many Romney falsehoods that Obama let slide which is very puzzling. But I’m particularly curious about Romney’s “clean coal” comment. Does he really think spewing mercury into the atmosphere is actually good for us? What the heck do Republicans mean when they speak of “continuing to burn clean coal”? Seriously, what does a Republican mean by “clean coal”?

  2. coalguy says:

    Here is what a Republican means by Clean Coal. One example and this is just one example. Turk Plant in Arkansas currently scheduled to open up later this year. Ultra Super-critical pulverised coal plant with all current emission controls including SCR, FGD and ACI. The only thing it can’t remove is CO2 because the technology isn’t ready yet but they have an area for injection if and when the technology becomes available. Will burn coal from the PRB in Wyoming where you cannot tell the mined out areas from the un-mined areas. Cleanest coal plant in the country that spent millions protecting it’s permit against lawsuits brought on by the Sierra Club.
    So, the real question for democrats is why don’t you support clean coal?
    And, FYI – I did not hear any Romney Falsehoods. I did hear a lot of fumbling for a response to a fact but that was from our president.
    Hmmmm. Were we watching the same debate?

  3. donedeal says:

    There is no such thing as clean coal, and while YOU did not hear any falsehoods, the fact checkers did. It’s all over the news. Get informed.

  4. coalguy says:

    Apparently you didn’t read my note. Tell me something about Turk that does not represent clean coal. If you don’t know anything about it, you should get informed.
    I have listened to the news a lot over the last few days. Have not heard fact checkers favor one over the other. I am informed.

  5. Ken Ward Jr. says:

    Donedeal and coalguy,

    Please tone it down a bit … Ken.

  6. rgriffith says:


    Will the Turk Plant meet the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards scheduled to take effect in 2015? If so, great! That’s as close to clean coal as we’re ever likely to get and nobody, even Obama, thinks we can completely eliminate electricity from coal for the foreseeable future. Meet the 2015 standards and I’ll be happy to support clean coal.

  7. Jerry says:

    The term “clean coal” is relative at best. It may be “clean” at the end of the cycle when it is ready to be used as fuel, but if you consider the entire mining process – then I see donedeal’s point.
    coalguy: when you describe how you can’t tell the difference between mined out areas of Wyoming and unmined areas, that kind of describes in a nutshell the lack of common ground the two differnt sides of the argument have. It reminds me of a comment some years back that the head of Walker Machinery made about MTR in a local editorial letter (and I’m paraphrasing from memory): “MTR is not destructive”.
    I think we can all agree that surface mining is destructive, whether it is in Wyoming or on a WV mountaintop. The question is, is it worth it?

  8. coalguy says:

    2 points:
    1. Turk will meet MATS as it is. Mercury is removed by Activated Carbon Injection. Other toxics are removed in the scrubber / baghouse combination.
    2. I was trying to make the point that not all coal mining leaves its mark. Although I do support MTR, I also know that it changes the topography. To those who have never been to the large mines in WY, you need to see them before commenting on coal mining outside of WV. I do know that the land in WY is returned to a condition after mining and reclamation that is better than it was before mining and you literally cannot tell where mining took place. The topography is lower because the coal seam was removed but it is essentially identical to the pre-mining topography. And water quality is not effected because there is so little precipitation that mining has no measureable effect on water quality in the area.
    So, clean coal is real. If you want to discuss whether or not clean coal can be achieved in WV, then I can at least understand the discussion.

  9. rgriffith says:

    OK, I take your word that the Turk plant will meet the MATS standard. Since it can be done and still burn coal, why is almost every WV politician, Republican and Democrat, running against the MATS standard?

    As for MTR, I think it’s an abomination, period. Even for “normal” surface mining, we’ve got the ridiculous situation where the Evironmental Quality Board, stacked by Tomblin, says we need arsenic, sulfate and dissolved solids standards and our Department of Environmental Protection (what a joke!) appeals the EQB ruling. Don’t those guys remember what happened to Dunkard Creek?

  10. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    Perhaps you would provide some references or links to scientific papers or government reports that back up a number of statements you made — such as:

    — I do know that the land in WY is returned to a condition after mining and reclamation that is better than it was before mining and you literally cannot tell where mining took place.

    — (also regarding Wyoming) And water quality is not effected because there is so little precipitation that mining has no measureable effect on water quality in the area.

    Thanks, Ken.

  11. coalguy says:

    I would like to but don’t know of any scientific papers offhand. Nobody ever does a study on how something has no effect on the environment. Below is a link to the Wyoming Mining Association website that shows some of the details on mining and reclamation in Wyoming:

    Most of my knowledge is from personal experience. I worked in the environmental group for a coal mine for several years and can tell the wildlife (including elk, antelope and wild horses) would hang out around the mine because the vegetation was better than unmined areas.

    And water is scarce in the coal fields of WY. The bigger impact by far on the water was from coal bed methane recovery. The only wetlands in that part of WY were the man-made wetlands including several reclaimed mine areas.

  12. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I think you’re greatly overstating the case to say that “nobody ever” does a study on how something has no impacts. There are studies that produce “null” results all the time.

    And since you’re going to fall back on the coal industry’s website, here’s a fact sheet from the Powder River Basin Resource Council that outlines their concerns about the impact of coal mining in Wyoming on the local environment:

    Among other things, they say:

    — Groundwater Depletion: Coal mining has caused complete dewatering of aquifers formerly used for drinking water and livestock watering.

    — Impacts to Land Uses: The gap between disturbed and reclaimed lands continues to grow. Less than 4% of mined lands have been released from final bond requirements, meaning that most lands have not met regulatory requirements for re-vegetation or aquifer restoration. This lack of reclamation prevents land from being returned to its prior condition of habitat for wildlife and livestock.

    We’ve also covered before on this blog concerns about air pollution from mines in Wyoming,


  13. coalguy says:

    Sorry. I can’t compete with that anti-coal propoganda. Just like you won’t look at the pro-coal website I provided. But, let me comment on the two things you highlight:
    – Groundwater depletion: The mines do dewater before mining the area to lower the watertable below the bottom of the pits. Kind of a “No duh”. After mining, the water pumps are shut off and water table eventually returns. No harm.
    Impacts to Land Use: It stated that – less than 4% of the land has been released from bond. The state does not like to release the land from bond because the mines must continue to monitor the land until they release it. The amount of land actually reclaimed with vegetation established is significant. So, I would recommend that you visit the area before you conclude who is telling the truth. The Black Thunder mine will give anyone a tour that shows up. And, I guarantee you that you won’t be able to tell where the mining activity has occurred.

  14. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    I did look at the site you referenced, but frankly, didn’t find much about the issues we’re discussing … just these links about two specific projects:

    I appreciate you commenting based on your own knowledge and experience … but wanted to point out to you one of Coal Tattoo’s comment section rules:

    “Please provide links or citations to published material to back up your views, when appropriate.”

    I do appreciate that you believe you have relevant experience and knowledge on this … but if you’re going to make sweeping statements like this one:

    “I do know that the land in WY is returned to a condition after mining and reclamation that is better than it was before mining and you literally cannot tell where mining took place.”

    … Well, you really need to provide some material that’s been published somewhere that supports what you’re saying.


  15. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    There’s also some interesting testimony in this congressional hearing about mining out west … search for the testimony of Ellen Pfister —


  16. Steve says:

    Ken, Could you provide a link to the 15 million homes powered with electricity from solar? Is this in the U.S. or world wide?

  17. Steve says:

    Excuse me, 15 million powered by wind and solar. Still would like to see the link. Thanks!

  18. Soyedina says:

    Nobody ever does a study on how something has no effect on the environment.

    The Journal of Negative Results in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is just one example of several outlets which regularly (and specifically) publish studies just like those which were alleged to not exist.

  19. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    There’s a link there, … It’s from Michael Grunwald at Time magazine, who wrote a whole book about the stimulus with a focus on green energy.

    I have not done the math myself, but consider Gunwald a very reliable source.


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