McCain: New Coal Plants ‘Will Increase Greenhouse Gas Emissions Dramatically’

Last week, the Wonk Room reported that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joined Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) in opposing mountaintop removal, an ecologically and economically disastrous form of coal mining that has devastated Appalachia. This position, expressed at a Florida townhall meeting, caught his campaign and his supporters off guard, with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) responding that “such a stance could hurt McCain in West Virginia.”

At the same meeting, McCain also criticized the idea of building new coal plants that do not sequester their greenhouse gas emissions. He said:

We’re going to build new plants that generate energy, my friends, we’re going to build them. We’ve got to. There’s an increased demand for it. And it seems to me, it’s going to be coal, which I believe will increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically, or it’s going to be nuclear, or it’s going to be clean coal technology.

Watch it:

Carbon capture and sequestration (sometimes described as “clean coal” technology) is still a developmental technology. Does McCain’s careful separation of coal plants that “increase greenhouse gas emissions dramatically” from “clean coal technology” mean that McCain opposes the construction of new traditional coal plants?

If so, McCain is joining activist organizations like 1Sky, the Energy Action Coalition, and the League of Women Voters, who have all called for a moratorium on new coal plants to prevent climate catastrophe.

Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) for comments criticizing coal’s health threats, noting that Biden “here in Ohio recently said that they weren’t supporting clean coal either.” The comments, first reported by the Wonk Room, were picked up today by the Politico’s Ben Smith and then promoted on the Drudge Report. Sen. McCain’s blogger, Michael Goldfarb, copied the Wonk Room transcript without attribution.

Following McCain’s remarks, McCain representative George “Macaca” Allen (R-VA) spoke with reporters about coal. Allen confused traditional coal plants, advanced “clean coal” technology, and climate-killing liquid coal. In the twenty-minute call, neither Allen, Capito, Scott McInnis (R-CO) — a registered lobbyist for the mining industry — nor the other speakers mentioned any of the following:

— Global warming, which McCain considers a central priority.

— The health effects of coal pollution.

— Mountaintop removal mining, which McCain says he opposes.

Unlike his campaign, McCain seems to have no difficulty recognizing the threat traditional coal plants pose to the planet and thus to our national security and economic future.

UPDATE: The McCain-Palin campaign has announced the “Coalition to Protect Coal Jobs:”

The coalition will help spread the message about the importance of clean coal technology and the advantages of tapping the country’s vast coal reserves. As part of John McCain’s “all of the above” energy plan, the Lexington Project, clean coal will be a strong component of the drive to energy independence. In addition to providing domestic energy, the coal industry is a key part of the economy in several states.

The Obama-Biden campaign later announced the “Clean Coal Jobs Task Force”:

Today, the Obama-Biden campaign announced a Clean Coal Jobs Task Force, aimed at furthering Senator Obama and Senator Biden’s commitment to creating jobs and energy independence through clean coal. The Task Force is made up of members representing workers from key coal-producing states and will work to promote the Obama-Biden agenda to invest in advanced coal-based technologies, create more jobs in the coal sector and enhance mine safety.