“I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC to tell you that coal jobs, which are so important to our community are in jeopardy,” says the robocall being made to voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio, among other coal-producing states.
Continues the robocall: “Listen to Barack Obama’s plans to bankrupt the coal industry.”
The call then plays this quote from Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.: "So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; 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.”
You can listen to the robocall HERE.
The quote comes from a January 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle; the Obama campaign says the quote is being “wildly” taken out of context, that in the full interview Obama praises coal and says that the idea of eliminating coal is “an illusion.”
“The line they pulled out is in the context of cap and trade program,” says an Obama spokesperson. “The point Obama is making is that we need to transition from coal burning power plants built with old technology to plants built with advanced technologies — and that is exactly the action that will be incentivized under a cap and trade program.”
Is it being taken unfairly out of context? You be the judge. Here’s the entirety of Obama’s remarks:
“I voted against the Clear Skies Bill. In fact, I was the deciding vote — despite the fact that I’m a coal state and that half my state thought that I had thoroughly betrayed them. Because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical.
“But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.
“But … let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.
“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. 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. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach. The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain. And so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I tell you what, if we could figure out how to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.
“The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what the best approach is to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.”