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Palin’s Latest Gambit.

November 3, 2008

So… Sarah Palin’s campaigning around Coal States, riling up the crowds with attacks on the San Francisco Chronicle and a “hidden” interview with Barack Obama in January.

“And he said that, sure, if the industry wants to build coal-fired power plants, then they can go ahead and try, he says. But they can do it only in a way that will bankrupt the coal industry.”

You gotta listen to the tape,” she continued. “Why is this audio tape just now surfacing?”

Voices in the crowd could be heard shouting, “Liberal media!

“This interview was given many months ago,” Palin told the audience. “You should have known about this.

The Republican National Committee also sent out blog reports pushing the notion of a “hidden” Obama videotape withheld by The Chronicle.

Of course, this so-called “hidden” interview has been on the SF Chronicle’s website since January.

I listened to the interview, and personally transcribed the entire portion of which Sarah Palin is referring to.

SF Chronicle: “All the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else.  So, how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?”

Senator Obama: “I’ve already done it.  I voted against the Clear Skies Bill.  In fact, I was the deciding vote, despite the fact that I’m (from) a Coal State, and that half of my state thought I’d thoroughly betrayed them.  Because I think clean air is critical, and I think global warming is critical.

But this notion of “no coal” I think is an illusion, because the fact of the matter is right now, we are getting a lot of our energy from coal, and China is building a coal power plant once a week.

So what we have to do then is we have to figure out, “How can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gasses and carbon?  And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it?”

If we can’t, then we’re going to still be working on alternatives.  But…”

SF Chronicle: “Alternatives including coal?”

Senator Obama: “Let me sort of describe my overall policy.  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 100% auction on the cap-and-trade system — which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gas that was emitted would be charged to the polluter.

That will create a market in which whatever technologies that are out there 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 imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal power 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.

That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in — solar, wind, bio-diesel, and other alternative energy approaches.

The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — and I haven’t been some “coal booster” — what I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

That, I think, is the right approach.

The same with respect to nuclear.  Right now don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely, and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain, so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy.

But I tell you what, if we could figure out how to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.

The point is if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine — and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue — what is the best approach to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, “Here are the winners that we’re picking,” and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.

There’s a lot more nuance in his policy than Sarah Palin leads you to believe.

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