October 1st, 2008
03:52 PM ET
6 years ago

Fact Check: Do Obama and Biden oppose 'clean coal?'

A freight train carries coal in Colorado, the site of the recent Democratic convention and a state that is also the focus of a recent radio ad by the McCain-Palin campaign.
A freight train carries coal in Colorado, the site of the recent Democratic convention and a state that is also the focus of a recent radio ad by the McCain-Palin campaign.

The Statement: In a set of radio ads aired Tuesday, September 30 in several battleground states, Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign says Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, are against "clean coal" technology. In "Clean Coal Colorado" a narrator says, "Obama-Biden and their liberal allies oppose clean coal. Listen to Joe Biden - 'No coal plants here in America.' 'We're not supporting clean coal.'"

Get the facts!

The Facts: The ad quotes an amateur video posted on the Web site YouTube, in which Biden is greeting supporters at a September 17 campaign event in Maumee, Ohio. A woman approaches him and says, "Wind and solar are flourishing here in Ohio, so why are you supporting clean coal?" Biden's immediate response is, "We're not supporting clean coal." His comments that followed seem unclear. He goes on to suggest Obama-Biden supports improving technology to make burning coal more environmentally friendly - although he does say the "no coal plants" line the ad quotes.

"China's going to burn 300 years worth of bad coal unless we figure out how to clean their coal up ... ," he said. "No coal plants here in America. Build them if they're going to build them over there. Make them clean because they're killing you."

Biden's off-the-cuff comments quoted in the ads seem at odds not only with the Obama campaign's stated policy on coal, but his own stated policy. On its Web site, the Obama campaign's energy plan includes a push to "develop and deploy clean-coal technology." "Obama's Department of Energy will enter into public-private partnerships to develop five 'first-of-a-kind' commercial scale coal-fired plants with clean carbon capture and sequestration technology," it says. In a campaign speech Wednesday, October 1, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Obama again highlighted plans to pursue clean-coal technology.

On his Senate Web site, Biden calls for spending $5 billion on energy research that would include "technologies that will allow us to use coal cleanly." Both Obama and Biden have supported several pieces of legislation that would fund research of "clean coal" technology - which, if successfully developed, would trap dangerous carbon emissions from the coal-burning process.

The Verdict: Misleading. The partial Biden quotes that the ads use are accurate, but leave out the full context of his comments. The Obama campaign supports "clean coal" technology and building plants using the new technology.


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • Joe Biden
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