A new campaign ad from President Obama targets Mitt Romney's stance on coal -- but not for supporting the industry. The radio spot, airing in Ohio, touts Obama's support of the coal industry in the state, while attacking Romney for remarks made as governor of Massachusetts.
Offering a decidedly pro-coal message, the ad suggests that Romney has been "attacking the president's record on coal." In a 2003 soundbite, Romney declared, "I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people." The coal-fired power plant Romney refers to is one in Salem, Massachusetts which was the target of a state government crackdown in 2003, according to Politico.
In 2008, Vice President Joe Biden made similar comments, stating that coal-fired power plants pose significant health risks to many Americans. The Clean Air Task Force (CATF), a non-profit research and advocacy organization, found in a recent report that "over 13,000 deaths each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. power plants."
The Ohio ad also claims "Obama pledged to support clean coal and invest in new technologies." It goes on to suggest that Ohio has seen coal production and jobs increase during Obama's administration, with the president also supporting a $5 billion investment in "clean coal" technology.
Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard notes that these claims show that "Obama's ad is really off-base. For one, there's still no 'clean coal' technology that's ready to be deployed for new plants, let alone 60-plus-year-old plants like Salem."
Progressive organization CREDO Action has launched a petition calling on the Obama campaign to drop the ad. Claiming that "The people of Ohio know that fossil fuel pollution tends to punish most those who can least afford to move away from it," the group says "an ad suggesting that President Obama is more coal-loving than Romney isn't just cynical, it's misleading."
In addition to the adverse health effects from particulate matter pollution, coal-fired power plants also emit significant quantities of carbon dioxide. The CATF notes, "It is now well established in climate science that CO2 emissions globally must stop, by the middle of this century, to avoid the worst cataclysms of global warming."
In April, President Obama told Rolling Stone, "I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation."
Romney, who "spent considerable time hammering out a sweeping climate change plan to reduce [Massachusetts'] greenhouse gas emissions," according to the Los Angeles Times, has been more reticent to address climate change in recent months. Speaking to a group at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October 2011, Romney said, "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."
Listen to Obama's coal ad below and click here to learn about CREDO Action's campaign to tell Obama For America to drop the ad.