CHARLESTON -- John McCain's presidential campaign quickly seized upon Barack Obama's comments about the coal industry on Sunday.
Speaking in Marietta, Ohio, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin went on the offensive concerning an interview Obama did in January with the San Francisco Chronicle.
In the interview, Obama said his plan to cap greenhouse gases would provide energy suppliers with incentives to develop technologies to reduce pollution and to use cleaner sources of power.
"So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can," Obama said in a Jan. 17 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that was made public today on the Web site newsbusters.org. "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."
An audio excerpt from the interview can be found at YouTube.
Palin urged the Marietta crowd to listen to the audiotape.
"Barack Obama explained his plan to the San Francisco Chronicle this year, early this year," Palin told the crowd in the city just across the Ohio River from Parkersburg. "And he said that, sure, if the industry wants to build coal-fired power 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. And you gotta listen to the tape."
Palin wondered why the audio just now is surfacing.
"This interview was given to San Francisco folks many, many months ago," she told the crowd at Marietta College. "You should have known about this, so that you would have better decision-making information as you go into the voting booth," Palin said as shouts of "liberal media!" could be heard from the crowd.
In the interview, Obama spoke about his plan of an "aggressive" cap and trade policy that which will charge polluters in an effort to curb carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
"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." Obama said, "That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in wind, solar, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I have said with respect to coal, I haven't been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it."
Palin vowed Sunday that a McCain administration would "not let that happen to the coal industry."
"Instead, we'll make clean coal a reality and to help power the American economy with clean coal technology," she said. "We're going to be looking to the hard-working people of Ohio and West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
"In an Obama-Biden administration, there would be no use for coal at all, from Wyoming to Colorado, to West Virginia and Ohio."
Also Sunday, at least one West Virginia citizen e-mailed The West Virginia Record after a story about Obama's comments appeared on the site. He said he already had received a recorded telephone message from the McCain campaign playing excerpts from Obama's San Francisco interview. The automated call urges the listener to "listen to Barack Obama's plans to bankrupt the coal industry."
According to news reports and blogs, potential voters in several coal-heavy states were receiving that automated McCain call.
In national news stories campaign officials say the quote is being taken out of context and that Obama is actually from a coal state and is a strong supporter of the industry.
The campaign sent a statement today saying "the point Obama is making is that we need a transition from coal burning power plants built with old technology to plants built with advanced technologies."
A spokeswoman for the Obama campaign in West Virginia replied to requests for comment with a quote from Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland about McCain's energy plan.
"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," Strickland said. "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. Hardworking families don't need more Washington-style political attacks, they need a President who will create jobs and stand up for the middle class – and that's Barack Obama."
A blog on the San Francisco Chronicle's Web site also said the paper's January editorial board session with Obama "has been in the public domain, available on line to the public -- and to the McCain campaign -- since early January."