Clinton, Obama Coal Comments Criticized by Environmental Group

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In a press release I received today, Friends of the Earth Action criticized both leading Democratic presidential candidates for their recent anti-environment, pro-coal comments.  

Senator Hillary Clinton expressed enthusiasm for coal and failed to condemn mountaintop removal during an interview yesterday on West Virginia Public Radio.  Today, Senator Barack Obama delivered a speech in West Virginia advocating so-called “clean coal” as a solution to global warming.

Both are wrong.

These comments raise serious questions about whether the Democratic candidates are as committed to clean energy as they claim to be,” Friends of the Earth Action President Brent Blackwelder said.  “Coal is not clean-period.  And it is especially dirty and damaging when it is mined through the mountaintop removal process, in which mountains are literally blown to pieces, wiping vast swaths of nature off the map and polluting valleys, streams and rivers.”

Presidential candidates’ parroting of coal industry talking points raise questions about their commitment to clean energy; Clinton even equivocates on mountaintop removal

In her interview, Clinton said “coal fits in very importantly” to America’s energy future, arguing that “the challenge is how we are going to continue using coal” and using the coal industry’s misleading term “clean coal” to discuss proposed carbon capture and sequestration technology, which has not yet been proved to be technologically feasible or commercially viable.  

When asked about the devastating practice of mountaintop mining, Clinton expressed concern but then attempted to frame the issue as a choice between an “economic and environmental trade-off,” which demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of the issue.

Hillary Clinton:

I am concerned about it for all the reasons people state, but I think its a difficult question because of the conflict between the economic and environmental trade-off that you have here. I’m not an expert. I don’t know enough to have an independent opinion, but I sure would like people who could be objective, understanding both the economic necessities and environmental damage to come up with some approach that would enable us to retrieve the coal but would enable us to do it in a way that wouldn’t damage the living standards and the other important qualities associated with people living both under the mountaintop and people who are along the streams. You know, maybe there is a way to recover those mountaintops once they have been stripped of the coal. You know, I think we’ve got to look at this from a practical perspective.

More here on Clinton’s speech on coal.

Dr. Brent Blackwelder and FoE Action reject Senator Clinton’s attempt to hide behind jobs:

“This jobs angle is so phony.  Coal production in the U.S. has increased in the past 50 years but coal jobs have dropped more than 80 percent.  This is not helping local economies.  Mountaintop mining in particular harms the communities where the mining takes place, which tend to be the most impoverished communities in Appalachia.

We need to envision a new healthy green economy for West Virginia, one in which we conserve energy and transition to clean energy alternatives, including solar and wind.  It’s time to cut the coal.”

In his speech today in West Virginia, Obama advocated “investing in renewable sources of energy, and in clean coal technology, and creating up to five million new green jobs in the bargain, including new clean coal jobs.”  And his record leaves much room for improvement.  Obama has worked closely with the coal industry in the past, supports coal subsidies and repeatedly uses the inaccurate term “clean coal” in his communications.

Barack Obama:

Instead of fighting this war, we could be freeing ourselves from the tyranny of oil, and saving this planet for our children. We could be investing in renewable sources of energy, and in clean coal technology, and creating up to 5 million new green jobs in the bargain, including new clean coal jobs. And we could be doing it all for the cost of less than a year and a half in Iraq.

Remarks for Senator Barack Obama

Dr. Blackwelder names the problem: Jusst being better than McCain ain’t good enough in this time of crisis.  

“These candidates need to stop pandering and start being leaders,” Blackwelder said.  “We’re in the midst of a global warming crisis and we need a president who will push for real solutions.  The Democratic candidates’ plans are better than the anything we’ve seen from John McCain, but being better than McCain is not enough.  Our planet faces a crisis the likes of which it has never seen.  Where is the bold leadership our planet is calling for?”

Let’s tell Obama and Clinton that we care about our planet! Coal is not clean -period.  Instead of fighting each other on petty, personal issues, put the planet first, because if we have no planet, no one gets to be President.


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    • TomP on March 20, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    bold leadership to save our planet.  

  1. From today’s Washington Post, With Coal Supplies Short, Price Rise Surpasses Oil and U.S. Exporters Profit.

    Meanwhile mining companies are enjoying a windfall. Freight cars in Appalachia are brimming with coal for export, and old coal mines in Japan have been reopened or expanded. European and Japanese coal buyers, worried about future supplies, have begun locking in long-term contracts at high prices, and world steel and concrete prices have risen already, fueling inflation.

    In the United States, the boom in coal exports and prices has helped lower the trade deficit, which declined last year for the first time since 2001. The value of coal exports, which account for 2.5 percent of all U.S. exports, grew by 19 percent last year, to $4.1 billion, the National Mining Association said. An even bigger increase is expected this year…

    For coal mining companies, the coal crisis is a bonanza…

    In the United States, it is getting harder to license and borrow money to build new coal plants. But Peabody Energy’s chief executive Gregory H. Boyce says foreign demand will sustain mining output. “Coal is the sustainable fuel best able to close the gap of growing demand vs. scarce and expensive alternatives,” he said at a conference last month.

    Takes guts to stand up to big polluting, climate changing coal. No matter how much coal lobbyists talk about “clean coal” and carbon capture. Coal is not clean (to mine or burn) and carbon capture is unproven at best, and a scam at worse.

    From an opinion piece in The Guardian by George Monbiot, Carbon capture is turning out to be just another great green scam.

    Clean coal’s definition changes according to whom the industry is lobbying. Sometimes it means more efficient power stations – which still produce almost twice as much carbon dioxide as gas plants. Sometimes it means removing sulphur dioxide from the smoke, which boosts the CO2. Sometimes it means carbon capture and storage: stripping the carbon out of the exhaust gases, piping it away and burying it in geological formations. None of these equate to clean coal, as you will see if you visit an opencast mine. But they create a marvellous amount of confusion in the public mind, which gives the government a chance to excuse the inexcusable.

    Carbon capture is untried and untested and unproven. But even if it works, coal mining still is an environmental disaster.

  2. Thank for the focus on this. It is another issue that seems to be on the back burner with the two remaining candidates fighting.

    WE need to get back to the issues like this one.

    • Mu on March 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    are sucking up to Big Coal?

    Gee, will wonders never cease!

    Mu . . .


    • TomP on March 20, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    putting this on the front page.  

    • Viet71 on March 21, 2008 at 12:33 am

    wishing for the election of a Dem candidate, lest they get what they don’t want.

    Yeah, McCain sucks.  Bush is a war criminal.  Same as to Cheney.

    But what, exactly, do we get with Clinton or Obama?

    An end to warfare in Iraq?  A better economy?

    I subscribe to the ideas of hope and change.

    But I’ve been disappointed by every president during my lifetime (Truman – shrub).

    • creeper on March 21, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Neither is oil.  Nuclear’s not too tidy, either.  

    I get so tired of reading articles complaining about coal with no realistic assessment of the current options.

    Coal is the most abundant fuel on our planet.  The supply of coal in this country is almost limitless and it is, literally, dirt cheap.  It can be burned with a fraction of the emissions that were once common.  Best of all, we don’t have to send our money to the Middle East to get it.

    Here in the heartland we have coal-fired generators all along the Mississippi River.  Pollution laws are stringent enough that companies think twice before planning construction of a new plant but the simple economic reality is that it’s the cheapest, easiest, least politically hazardous fuel we have and we see a new, high-tech power plant going up about once every five or six years.  

    In the meantime, existing plants are upgraded to clean their emissions and we have a surplus of electricity to place on the grid.

    Please…before you discard coal out of hand as a source of energy learn about the potential for its use with a minimum of harm to the environment.

    You might start with this story from NPR:

    And if you want to “do something” about the menace that is coal, work to enact legislation that mandates cutting-edge technology for the burning of coal instead of trying to outlaw it completely.  Or be prepared to freeze to death in the dark one day.  

  3. who cares and sees to do? It’s always down to the lesser of two evils as long as the corporate money runs our government. No pol from any side is going to save our collective asses. All I can do in good conscious is vote and support the least bought and paid for advocate of corporatism. No one at this point even Edward can ‘trip the light fantastic’ and bring us out of the iron grip of dinosaurs toppling. At least as my choices are whittled Obama is not running around advocating economic ‘competition’ as the be all for the future.

    A baby step is better then none. As an Edwards supporter I never thought he could as one person stop this shit. Hillary offers nothing more then ‘free’ market at any cost. You take what you can get a better alternative then throwing them all out for the bums they are because we can’t. We’re stuck and our choices are this. Obama at least offers me a way to attain some semblance of power, at most a seat at the corporatist’s table, at worst a foot in the door, an acknowledgment of the the power one can wield via the ballot.          

  4. Enviornmental priority number one should to focus on the debunking of Big Al’s carbon trading scam.  That is only about making more fat cats richer by driving your lifestyle into the post modern age.  Know any Amish families?

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