Muckraker: Grist on Politics

The Associated Press attempts to figure out where the presidential candidates stand on mountaintop-removal coal mining. They talked to campaign surrogates about what the candidates think, and here’s what they got:

Mountaintop removal mining “irreversibly alters our natural treasures and poses potential threats to water sources,” and the Republican McCain believes the industry doesn’t need it to stay in business, West Virginia campaign spokesman Ben Beakes wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The Democrat’s position is less strident. Obama’s campaign expresses “serious concerns about the environmental implications” but stops short of demanding a ban on the practice condemned by environmentalists and reviled by many who live near the mine sites.

Actually, it doesn’t sound like either candidate is “demanding a ban,” though both candidates are at least acknowledging how destructive the practice is. The AP goes on to note that opposition to MTR complicates all the candidates’ promises of “clean coal” on the campaign trail this year — and pisses off their friends in the coal industry:

The anti-mountaintop stance of both candidates comes as a surprise to the industry, given that McCain and Obama have talked extensively about spending billions of dollars on so-called clean-coal technology.

[…]

So to dismiss mountaintop removal mining without even seeing it is shortsighted, says West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney.

“Let’s go take a look and really see what’s going on here as opposed to making what seems to be a very shallow and politically convenient statement,” said Raney.

The AP article arguably portrays a clarity that isn’t actually there in either campaign. Both candidates — especially McCain — have offered all kinds of fuzzy ideas and a grab bag of campaign promises on MTR. No one truly knows what either them would do about it in office.