In a tug-of-war for Ohio’s blue-collar workers, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney today bashed the Obama campaign’s hotly debated pro-coal radio ad in the swing state, calling the president’s energy record “a war on coal.”
Standing with a gaggle of uniformed coal workers behind a sign that proclaimed “coal country stands with Mitt,” Romney blamed Obama’s energy policies for pushing coal companies toward bankruptcy.
“His vice president said coal is more dangerous than terrorists. Can you imagine that?” Romney added, eliciting boos and eye rolls from the crowd.
Romney’s pronouncements stood in stark contrast to Obama’s recent ad touting the president’s coal credentials and slamming Romney’s 2003 attack on a coal plant that the Republican candidate said “kills people.”
Obama, better known for his record on renewables, gave a fossil-fuel friendly message in the Ohio ad that touts a 7 percent increase in coal production and 10 percent increase in coal jobs in the Midwest mining state.
“Obama’s also made one of America’s largest investments ever in clean coal technology, a $5 billion effort to create the next generation of coal-fired plants,” the ad says.
The spot ends with a clip of Romney’s 2003 press conference in front of the troubled Salem Harbor Power Plant, when the then-Massachusetts governor blasted its environmental record and impact on human health.
“I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people,” Romney said. “And that plant, that plant kills people.”
The Salen Harbor plant has changed owners twice since then, partly because of the high cost of mandated environmental upgrades.
Obama’s pro-coal spot seems to be fanning flames on both sides of the energy debate.
Progressive political action group CREDO Action has launched a petition calling on the Obama campaign to drop the ad, contending that it contradicts the president’s environmental record. As the petition notes, new regulations instituted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration have helped curb the coal industry’s stronghold on U.S. power production.
“An ad suggesting that President Obama is more coal-loving than Romney isn’t just cynical, it’s misleading,” the petition reads. “The ad reflects clear political pressure Obama is feeling in swing states like Ohio.”
Meanwhile, the United Mine Workers of America, which endorsed Obama in 2008, is tentatively sitting out of the race this year, disenchanted by both candidates’ approach to coal. And a group of coal industry groups from major mining states announced Monday that they would band together to fight Obama’s reelection.