THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jeff Biggers Headshot

The Coal Truth on Candidates

Posted: Updated:

Let's face it: Every single presidential candidate with a veritable chance at victory, Democrat and Republican, is in the hip pocket of King Coal.

The Republicans, of course, make no bones about their unfettered support for strip-mining and lax mining safety. Despite the undeniable fact that coal-fired plants in our country account for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, drastic strip-mining techniques have laid waste to 450 mountains and adjacent communities in Appalachia--an area the size of some primaries states--and mining safety laws continue to operate on poorly enforced crisis management policies, Republicans proudly tout the Orwellian vision of Clean Coal, or more recently, Patriot Coal.

The main three Democratic contenders, alas, cushion their support for King Coal in the guise of Cap and Trade charades, "low carbon" coal technologies, and the chimerical dream of coal-to-liquid fuel, an outrageously expensive technology championed by Nazi Germany and South Africa's apartheid regime.

Bottom line: Despite their inspiring speeches on global warming and environmental protection and workplace safety, the Democrats have bought into the same sham of coal's reemergence as a "clean" source of energy for the future.

Worse yet, they've allowed one of the most ominous publicity campaigns to join their own primary bandwagons with its wicked backdrop of misinformation.

As Robert Kennedy, Jr. pointed out on Huffington Post last fall, a fierce alliance of King Coal barons and energy companies have re-invented themselves as "America's Power" and quietly cosponsored presidential debates, aired an unprecedented number of ads in key primary states, and has now let loose the hounds of "volunteers" at presidential primary events across the country in the get-up of a "Power Van."

Taking a page from a bad Vegas show, illuminated walking billboards with a piece of coal now haunt virtually every Sin City political event, from Clinton's Caucus Kick-Off and Balloon Rally to Obama's Town Hall meeting.

While anti-nuclear waste protestors were ushered away from the bally-hooed Oprah-Obama rally in South Carolina last fall, thousands of voters filed through the "America's Power Van" at the entrance of the Williams-Bryce Stadium, where they learned, according to the alliance's slick website, "about our commitment to continued reduction of regulated emissions, the development of technology to capture and storage greenhouse gases, providing reliable, affordable electricity and protecting America's security."

Kennedy, for all of his best and brightest verve, like most Democrats, lost his street cred on this issue when he endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, a candidate that America's Power showers praise on, since, as one of America's Power 's founders says, "Hillary recognizes that new power plants using coal can't be expected to put carbon capture and storage technologies on that don't yet exist."

A long-time supporter of southern Illinois's powerhouse coal industry, Senator Barack Obama's campaign website triumphantly declares: "Obama will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies."

While former Senator John Edwards has gone farther than any candidate in calling for a halt to new coal-fired plants, rejecting coal-to-liquid boondoggles, and refusing to accept donations from energy corporations, he ultimately falls back on the hands-in-the-air, what-can-we-do scenario. His campaign website declares: "Coal is a major source of power in the United States, where it generates half of electricity. The U.S. and the rest of the world is likely to rely on coal for it energy needs for decades or longer."

Oh well, what's a voter to do when national polls show the majority of Americans are overwhelmingly against strip-mining in Appalachia, rank global warming at the top of their concerns, or when our entire federal alternative energy budget is less than a week of expenditures in Iraq?

Some voters are responding. In truth, 2008 is the year of the coal reckoning. The construction of new coal-fired plants are being fought in nearly 30 states across the county. Take Kansas; ain't nothing the matter there. Thanks to a citizen's movements, that so-called red state became the first in the nation to reject efforts to build more coal-fired plants, due to considerations of carbon dioxide emissions. Across Appalachia and the South, an extraordinary crossover campaign of citizens groups have launched one of the most aggressive anti-strip-mining movements in history. Their campaign has gone national: You can now view your personal connection to the consumption of coal from communities and mountains and ancient forests obliterated by radical strip-mining.

Perhaps the Democratic candidates will reconsider their connection to coal; or, perhaps these citizen movements will force them to follow the lead of a citizens party.