A coal-fired squabble


In a campaign appearance in Marietta, Ohio, Sarah Palin criticized comments made early this year by Barack Obama -- which surfaced Sunday in an audiotape posted on YouTube -- in which the Democratic presidential candidate discusses how his proposed emissions policy would affect the coal industry.

“He said that, sure, if the industry wants to build new coal-fired plants, then they can go ahead and try . . . but they can do it only in a way that will bankrupt the coal industry, and he’s comfortable letting that happen,” the GOP vice presidential nominee told 4,800 supporters at Marietta College, located not far from Ohio’s border with West Virginia, a major coal-producing state.

“You’ve got to listen to that tape,” the Alaska governor said.

“That tape” is excerpted from a Jan. 17 San Francisco Chronicle editorial board interview with the Illinois senator.


The remarks posted on YouTube include a pledge by Obama to create a cap-and-trade system, under which polluters must buy credits to offset their emissions. Such an aggressive policy, he said, would spur the development of technology that uses cleaner sources of power.

“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,” Obama said.

Palin did not mention remarks Obama made elsewhere in the interview about coal’s role in the nation’s energy future.

“But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion,” he said. “. . . If we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, we can allow the market to determine, and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what’s the best approach to take.”

The Obama campaign called the tape “wildly edited” to take the candidate’s remarks out of context.

“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,” the campaign said in a statement.


-- Seema Mehta