CHARLESTON – Gov. Joe Manchin stands behind Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama after comments the senator made earlier this year concerning his plan to aggressively charge polluters for carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Governor Manchin believes we have a much better chance of working with Barack Obama on the issues of coal and clean coal techologies than John McCain," Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said late Sunday.
In a January interview with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama said, "What I've said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else's out there.
"I was the first to call for a 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.
"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."
An audio excerpt from the interview can be found at YouTube.
A spokesman for Russ Weeks, Manchin's Republican gubernatorial opponent in Tuesday's election, said he was dismayed by both Obama's comments and Manchin's continuing support.
"We think West Virginians should think twice about their governor's blind support for a guy who so clearly does not have West Virginia'ss best interest at heart," Gary Abernathy said Monday. "Barack Obama's comments about bankrupting the coal industry are shocking, and he might as well have said he plans to bankrupt West Virginia.
"We also think the governor should disavow Obama's comments, just as Russ has disavowed (John) McCain's comments on mountaintop removal."
Other state politicians and business leaders continued to speak out Monday about Obama's San Francisco interview.
"It's very disturbing and very troubling for West Virginia," said Kent Gates, spokesman for Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito. "West Virginia's economy relies on coal. His comments are a clear indication that his agenda would hurt Wets Virginia's economic future."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller issued a press release on the subject Monday afternoon.
"The claims you are hearing from the McCain/Palin campaign are misleading and untrue," Rockefeller said in the statement. "Barack Obama has been very clear with me and with you on his plan for clean coal -- and it's the most aggressive plan in support of clean coal we've seen from any presidential candidate.
"The idea that the McCain/Palin campaign is alleging the day before the election that Barack Obama's commitment to coal is anything but solid is absolutely ridiculous. This is exactly the kind of deceptive politicking voters are fed up with."
The president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce said the most important issue he sees from this last-minute issue is that West Virginians need to help their delegation in Washington, D.C.
"We need to help them understand how strongly people in West Virginia feel about our state as an energy-producing state," Steve Roberts said. "And we need to do everything we can to continue to be a leading energy-producing state.
"When our country's leaders -- whether they're Republican or Democrat -- say things that could hurt energy production, we need to call on our elected leaders to help them see the light and help them udnerstand that without West Virginia coal and West Virginia natural gas, our country is going to suffer."
Roberts said the entire country needs to pay attention to this key issue.
"Few people in our country know where our energy comes from, and what the potential cost is if we go away from domestic natural resources," Roberts said. "And let's not the rest of the country off the hook. They rely on our coal and electricity. Before they criticize our West Virginia energy sources, we hope we can help them understand how much they benefit from us."
Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy, put it succinctly.
"It's pretty simple," he said. "You can't be against coal and be for American energy independence."