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Stephen Igo • Oct 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Miss. Gov. and former RNC Chairman Hayley Barbour, center, enjoys a chat with Cumberland Resources Safety Coordinator Mike Wright, left, and former Va. Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. Stephen Igo photo.


APPALACHIA — Mississippi Gov. and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour said Tuesday Democrats cannot be trusted even when their party’s own flag-bearer, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, endorses coal as a major player in an Obama-forged national energy policy.

“I learned a long time ago, instead of listening to what politicians say, watch what they do,” Barbour said en route to a tour of a Wise County coal mining operation. “And nothing in (Obama’s) record indicates he is (pro-coal). Barack Obama has publicly said we ought to tax dirty energy like coal. John McCain recognizes our energy strategy needs to be more American energy, and if you try to eliminate coal that would be catastrophic to the economy, and not just here in this part of Virginia, but catastrophic for the whole nation.”

Barbour has served as a McCain presidential campaign stand-in since joining the Southwest Virginia leg of the GOP presidential candidate’s “Straight Talk” bus tour on Monday. On Tuesday, Barbour was accompanied by former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and briefly by Kilgore’s twin brother, Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, to visit Norton-based Cumberland Resources Corp.’s Looney Creek underground and surface mining operations about five miles north of Appalachia.

Half the nation’s electricity is generated from coal, Barbour said, “and it would be idiotic to take coal out of our energy mix. Coal and nuclear energy are far and away our biggest (energy) sources today and the best, most reliable, base load sources for the foreseeable future. They provide 70 percent of our nation’s base load energy needs.”

Several weeks ago in Lebanon, Obama said coal must and will be an integral part of his administration’s national energy strategy, if elected, and endorsed clean coal technologies (CCT) as a means to not only to ensure a thriving future for the coal industry but create significant job opportunities by encouraging a thriving CCT industry.

About a week later, Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, told a voter in Ohio the campaign does not support new coal-fired power plants. Such a facility is currently under construction in Wise County. Barbour and other Republicans have not been shy about pointing to Biden’s comments and charge they reflect the national Democratic Party’s true disdain for coal.

“Democrats have been anti-coal since the ’90s,” Barbour said.

Most national Democratic elected officials who don’t represent coal-producing areas “would be happy to see coal disappear tomorrow,” he said.

Now in his second term as governor, Barbour said his state is in the final permitting process for a gasified lignite coal-fired power plant designed to sequester the carbon dioxide underground and produce oil at the same time.

“We will generate base load energy and capture the carbon and sequester it into old oil wells. By pumping into those wells it frees up more oil. Last year we produced more oil in Mississippi than the year before, and this year we will produce more oil than last year. We have three large tertiary oil recovery projects that we will accomplish by flooding the oil fields with (carbon dioxide produced from those coal-fired plants),” he said.

“It is the first commercial size sequestration operation in the United States. We believe in clean coal and have a $3 billion investment to prove it.”

While surveying the Looney Creek mining operations, Jerry Kilgore said the “Straight Talk” bus tour on behalf of the McCain campaign was needed to remind Virginia coalfield residents which party is the least likely to yank the props from under the coal industry.

“We want to stress the importance of clean coal technologies as part of our overall energy policy,” Kilgore said. “Barack Obama talks a good game when it comes to coal, but then they turn around and give mixed messages in different parts of the country. There is no mixed message about the importance of coal in our nation’s energy future with John McCain.”

Barbour said Obama “has the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate, and he’s only been there, really, two years. The last two years he hasn’t been there much because he’s been running for president.”

Getting tagged as having the most liberal voting record in the Senate is quite an achievement, Barbour said.

“That’s to the left of (Teddy) Kennedy, that’s to the left of (John) Kerry, and that’s to the left, even, of Hillary Clinton,” he said. “And to top it off, he’s even to the left of Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Sanders runs and gets elected as a socialist. That’s pretty bad when even a socialist has a more conservative voting record than Barack Obama.”

A former Navy pilot, McCain put his life on the line for the nation, including enduring five-plus years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam after getting shot down during a combat mission, and Barbour said McCain continues to serve his country in the Senate.

“The next president is going to have to do some hard things. The presidency is a hard job to start with, but the next president will face even tougher challenges than normal,” Barbour said. “We need a president who has proven that he has within him what it takes to do what is hard, and John McCain has proved that. Name one hard thing Barack Obama ever had to do.”

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