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Sarah Palin attacks Barack Obama over old comments on coal (but leaves a few things out)

November 2, 2008 |  5:15 pm

During a campaign appearance in Marietta, Ohio, Sarah Palin criticized comments made earlier this year by Barack Obama -- which surfaced today in an audio tape posted on YouTube.

In it the Democratic presidential candidate discusses the effects of his proposed emissions policy on the coal industry.

“He said that sure, if the industry wants to build new coal-fired plants, then they can go ahead and try, he says, 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, not far from the border with West Virginia, a major coal-producing state.

“We will not let that happen to the coal industry,” she continued. “Instead, we’ll make clean coal a reality. And to help power the American economy with clean-coal technology, we’re going to be looking to the hard-working people of Ohio and West Virginia and Pennsylvania.”

Said the Alaska governor: “You’ve got to listen to that tape.”

"That tape" (above) is excerpted from a Jan. 17 San Francisco Chronicle editorial board interview with the Illinois senator. The remarks posted on YouTube include a pledge to create a cap-and-trade system, under which polluters must buy credits to offset all of their emissions.

Such an aggressive policy, Obama says, will 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,” he says in the interview -- comments that are also now part of a robocall to voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other coal-producing states, according to ABC News.

Palin did not, however, 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 says. “Because the fact of the matter is is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week.

"So what we have to do, then, is we have to figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. ... The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine, and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what's the best approach to take.”

Palin also used the disclosure of the tape to attack the mainstream media. “Why is the audio tape just now surfacing?” she asked. “This interview was given to San Francisco folks many, many months ago. You should have known about this so that you would have better decision-making information as you go into the voting booth.” (The excerpt was posted to YouTube today, but audio of the editorial board's full 53-minute interview with the candidate has been available on the Chronicle website since January.)

Among the first to respond to Palin's attack was Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, an Obama supporter.

“After John McCain said he’d like to 'transition away from coal entirely,' his campaign is hardly in a position to criticize a coal-state senator like Barack Obama, who has outlined a $150-billion investment in clean coal and other technologies to create jobs and build a new energy economy,” said Strickland, referring to a comment made in 2000 by the Arizona senator during a Senate hearing on global warming.

“The truth is, John McCain and Sarah Palin can’t name a single thing they’d do differently on the economy than George Bush, so all they have to offer is last-minute desperate distortions."

The Obama campaign called the tape “wildly edited” to take the Illinois senator'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.

"We know that additional work is necessary to develop and deploy these technologies. That is why Obama has argued for a robust funding program for carbon capture and sequestration.”

-- Seema Mehta

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