ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: A conflict over clean coal is brewing on the campaign trail after video surfaced of Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., telling an anti-pollution campaigner in Ohio that he does not support coal plants in America.
Approached following a rally in Maumee, Ohio, last Tuesday, Biden was asked by a campaigner for 1Sky, an organization against the development of new coal-fired power plants, why he supports clean coal at a time when “wind and solar are flourishing here in Ohio.”
The animated, close-talking Biden then put his hands on the woman’s shoulders and launched into a passionate, finger-wagging argument that he and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., do not support clean coal.
“We're not supporting clean coal,” Biden said. “Guess what? China is building two every week, two dirty coal plants. And it's polluting the United States, it's causing people to die.”
“So will you support wind and solar and alternate technologies?” the woman questioned.
“Absolutely, before anybody did,” came Biden’s reply. “The first guy to introduce a global warming bill was me 22 years ago. The first guy to support solar energy was me 26 years ago. It came out of Delaware.”
“But guess what?,” he continued. “China's gonna burn 300 years of bad coal unless we figure out how to clean their coal up because it's gonna ruin your lungs and there's nothing we can do about it.”
“No coal plants here in America!” pledged the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. “Build 'em, if they're gonna build 'em, over there and make 'em clean because they're killing ya.”
No sooner had the video surfaced then Republicans pointed out that Biden’s answer conflicted with Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention last month when he proclaimed his ticket’s support for clean coal development.
“As president,” said Obama, “I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.”
And Biden’s remarks also stood in stark contrast to his own comments this weekend at the United Mine Workers of America annual fish fry in Castlewood, Virginia, when he told the miners that “we have enough coal in the United States of America to meet our needs domestically for the better part of the next 100 to 200 years.”
The Obama-Biden ticket, however, denounced GOP claims that Biden’s Ohio remarks were evidence that the Democratic pair opposes clean coal as “another ham-handed lying attack from the McCain campaign.”
“This is yet another false attack from a dishonorable campaign,” said Biden spokesman David Wade. “Sen. McCain knows that Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden support clean coal technology. Sen. Biden’s point is that China is building coal plants with outdated technology every day, and the United States needs to lead by developing clean coal technologies.”
“If Senator McCain is so committed to clean coal,” Wade wondered, "then why hasn’t he joined Senators Obama and Biden in announcing their support for the bipartisan energy proposal before the Senate today that would invest billions in clean coal projects? He should explain why his support for tax breaks for big oil outweighs his support for clean coal.”
“You know we have enough coal in the United States of America to meet out needs domestically for the better part of the next hundred to 200 years,” Biden said before launching into a critique of McCain’s energy priorities, slamming his support for billions in tax breaks for oil companies as the industry rakes in record profits.
“Imagine ... what Barack and I can do taking that $4 billion … and investing it in coal gasification, finding out what we can do with carbon sequestration, finding out how we can burn the coal that you dig that can free us from being dependent on foreign oil countries and at the same time not ruin the environment. That’s within our capacity to do it, if you give me $4 billion I promise you, I promise you we will find the answer,” Biden said.