The president’s tough new actions today to fight coal-fired carbon emissions have won praise from environmentalists and sent coal company stocks tumbling on fears the new regulations will force older coal plants to shut down.
But just last year, President Obama – eager to woo voters in coal-dependent regions of Ohio and Virginia – portrayed himself as a friend of the coal industry and even attacked Mitt Romney for being too tough on coal.
As he campaigned against Mitt Romney, Obama specifically took credit for increasing coal production during his first term.
“Here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president,” the president said during his Oct. 16 debate with Romney. “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”
The Obama campaign also ran television ads in Ohio and Virginia that hammered Romney for shutting down an old coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts. The ads played a clip of Romney saying this in 2003 as he stood in front of the power plant: “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people and that plant, that plant kills people.”
Over the video of Romney speaking, the ad put these words on the screen: “Not one of us.”
During the campaign, Obama consistently advocated what he called an “all of the above” energy strategy to both encourage alternative sources, such as solar, biofuels and wind, and also increased domestic production of fossil fuels, including oil, natural gas and coal.
He also made it clear he favored investments in clean coal: coal production that limits greenhouse gas emissions. For that reason, the White House says the president’s actions today, which also call for more investments in clean coal technology, are entirely consistent with what he said during the campaign.
“The president’s all-of-the-above energy strategy has made record investments in clean coal to help the industry better compete with the boom the U.S. is experiencing in cleaner-burning natural gas-and today our coal exports have increased to levels not seen in decades,” a senior White House official told ABC News.
“Nothing in the president’s climate plan will change that. The fact is, cutting carbon pollution will help modernize our coal power plants and keep them viable in the future. It will help spark innovation to create new clean energy technologies and it will put Americans to work with good jobs that can’t be shipped overseas making our power plants more efficient, which will save families money.”