Big Coal plays politics in US

By Steve Humphreys - 10 Nov 2010 12:13:0 GMT
Big Coal plays politics in US

Joe Manchin, Democratic West Virginia governor and senator-elect, may be tempted to run as a Republican, according to recent reports from Fox News and The Huffington Post. Included in any deal would be the promise of funding for a project to convert coal to diesel fuel - an estimated $1 billion.

Big Coal - the politically powerful lobbying and funding by the US coal industry - has a great deal of influence in West Virginia, as well as the other Rust Belt states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois. Governors and political parties know that funding from Big Coal may make or break a campaign, and they need to win votes from an electorate who are employed in, or dependent on, the coal industry.

The recent swing to the Republican party in the US mid-term elections is partly due to disenchantment with President Obama, but campaigning featured a large measure of longing for a return to a simpler, better America.

Film and print ads (costing an estimated $16 million) for "clean coal" blanketed the airwaves. Jeff Goodall, writing in Yale Environment 360, says these ads present coal "as American as mom and apple pie".

The world's largest privately-held coal company, Peabody Energy, spent almost $6 million in federal lobbying fees this year.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity spent $3,005,540 on a national ad in the run up to the mid term elections. And House Republican leaders say a priority for the new Congress should be to stop the federal Environmental Protection Agency regulating CO2 as a pollutant.

Although Joe Manchin's office say he has no plans to switch allegiances, he certainly looks like an easy target for coal money. In a TV ad (above) he brandishes a rifle, and says "I'll take dead aim at the cap-and-trade bill because it's bad for West Virginia."

Never mind that the environment-friendly cap-and-trade bill is unlikely to succeed; Governor Manchin makes it clear that he's on side with the Big Coal agenda.

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