Presidents do not set energy policy by themselves. In fact, the White House can do little without the cooperation of Congress. That is why a key question Sen. Barack Obama needs to answer is what he will do about anti-coal liberals on Capitol Hill.
Obama claims that clean-coal technology will be part of his comprehensive energy plan. In comparison to his rival for the presidency, Sen. John McCain, Obama is less specific on how coal would fit into an energy policy.
But even if Obama is serious about coal, he will be working against one of the most anti-coal legislative contingents in history. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have been vocal in their condemnations of any use of coal. Their refusal to consider coal-related bills is a matter of record.
How would Obama deal with that, if elected president? Would he use the bully pulpit to enlist Americans in a campaign to overcome the liberal opposition in Congress? Or would he quickly admit "defeat" and not promote coal in a meaningful way?
Simply because he and the liberal anti-coal lawmakers are all Democrats, there is reason to believe that Obama would back away from a confrontation with fellow leaders of the party.
McCain is a different story, of course. Many of his fellow Republicans in Congress do realize that coal needs to be an integral part of any energy policy. McCain, not known for backing away from a fight, would be likely to insist on federal initiatives to increase use of coal, both for power plants and to manufacture liquid and gaseous fuels.
McCain has the better, more sound policy. One we can be sure he will stand behind if elected president.
Clarification on just how strong Obama's commitment to coal is, then, is an important question in the minds of many area residents. Will he stand up for coal? Or will he bow to the demands of party leaders?
Those are questions that ought to be answered.