By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Sen. Mitch McConnell is doubling down on coal as his central issue in his campaign for a sixth term.
Friday McConnell unveiled a one-minute television commercial, twice as long as the usual spot, that claims Alison Lundergan Grimes supports "President Obama's anti-coal environmental platform," blames Obama for the loss of coal jobs, and calls for "an America . . . that stops the war on coal now."
The ad offers no documentation for the charge against Grimes, which is made with text on the screen, other than a line from coal executive Russell Badgett (who is only heard, not seen, and is not identified in the ad): "Alison Grimes does not stand for the coal industry."
Asked for documentation, McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore cited Grimes's support of the 2008 national Democratic Party platform, which called for "a market-based cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic change." Coal is the main source of carbon dioxide emissions.
A cap-and-trade bill passed the House when Democrats controlled it in 2009, but the bill died in the Democrat-controlled Senate. As an alternative, Obama recently proposed regulations to limit the emission of greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants, which would likely prevent construction of any such plants without devices to capture carbon dioxide produced by burning coal.
Grimes has objected to the regulations. The McConnell campaign noted that she was a delegate to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. The platform adopted by the convention called for an "all-of-the-above energy policy," including "clean coal," with incentives to encourage development of such technologies. It does not otherwise mention coal.
The Obama administration has also challenged the coal industry by issuing a "guidance" for issuance of strip-mining permits, in an effort to control water pollution from the mines. The industry's legal challenge to the policy was recently rejected by a federal appeals court.
McConnell's ad strongly implies that Obama's policies, called "the war on coal," are responsible for the loss of coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky, but industry analysts have said there are greater causes, principally cheap natural gas, made abundant by the development of horizontal hydraulic fracturing of deep, dense shales packed with gas. Another unseen person in the commercial says "Coal is being attacked on a lot of fronts," but market forces are not usually described as attacks.
The McConnell campaign said in a news release that the ad is running statewide. Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst replied, "No matter how many ads Mitch McConnell runs, he can't hide from the fact that he has failed to save a single coal job in his 30 years in Washington." Kentucky coal employment has declined for most of that time.