Much ado about Obama's coal comments

The e-mails and blog posts started showing up late Sunday, claiming the Democratic presidential candidate (and Senator from coal-rich Illinois) was aiming to bankrupt the coal industry.
According to the post on NewsBusters.org (“the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias”) the Democratic presidential nominee told the San Francisco Chronicle last January “that he was willing to see the coal industry go bankrupt …” through climate change legislation he would propose if elected.
The quote from the interview that caught the group’s attention?

“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.”

GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin jumped all over the nine-month-old quote on Monday, and accused the SF Chronicle of trying to hide the interview.
Listening to the full interview, it’s clear Obama is discussing the cap and trade emissions program he is proposing to curb production of greenhouse gases. It puts a price on carbon as a way to “encourage” industry to either stop using the fuel or find ways to clean up the emissions from plants that produce a lot of it. If such a program is developed nationally Houston could find itself a big player.
Given the way power markets are structured, however, higher coals costs that would follow a cap and trade system would most likely end up on the electric bills of customers. So it seems like a stretch to say it would bankrupt the power companies.
Such cap and trade programs aren’t new. They’ve been used effectively to reduce the problem with acid rain in the U.S. And it’s a plan endorsed by Obama’s rival, Sen. John McCain, although he’d administer the plan somewhat differently if elected.
As Al Tompkins at Poynter points out, regardless of whether this last-minute “revelation” is meaningful, coal has been a challenge for Obama. The Washington Post reported in this issue a year ago:

” … with Obama now a candidate for president, his embrace of southern Illinois and its dominant industry is showing signs of strain. Obama finds himself caught between his advocacy of huge federal subsidies for liquefied coal for transportation fuel, a technology that the Illinois coal industry views as a salvation, and environmental groups that reject it as a boondoggle that would set back efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the fight against global warming.”

As far as the comments being hidden by the newspaper, The SF Chronicle (sister paper to the Houston Chronicle, btw) notes:

John Diaz, editor of The Chronicle’s editorial pages, said the paper not only posted the entire audio and video of the Obama interview, but promoted it to readers.
“How can anyone suggest that we hid an interview that we did, immediately put up on the Web – and advertised to our readers?” said Diaz. “We promoted it like hell … and I’m sure the Clinton campaign and the McCain campaign scrubbed it. You can still find the whole 48 minutes and 33 seconds online.”

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