Chapter 1, courtesy of our friends at Greenwire ($ub req’d):

The coal industry is spending tens of millions of dollars to cement support among members of Congress and the top presidential candidates in an effort to fight critics of coal-fired power and is also appealing directly to the voters those politicians need.

Why, you ask?

Turn to Chapter 2, this time from The New York Times: “Stymied in their plans to build coal-burning power plants, American utilities are turning to natural gas to meet expected growth in demand …”

Excepts from both are below the fold. Stay tuned for Chapter 3 …

Greenwire:

The coal industry is spending tens of millions of dollars to cement support among members of Congress and the top presidential candidates in an effort to fight critics of coal-fired power and is also appealing directly to the voters those politicians need.

TV ads in key primary states, most recently Ohio, promote coal as a clean alternative to foreign oil. “We are out there talking to everybody, from people who are running for president of the United States down to Joe Six-pack,” said Joe Lucas of the industry group Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. It has paid $5 million to CNN to co-sponsor at least six presidential debates and air other network advertisements. The group expects to spend some $40 million this year, more than double its spending in 2007.

With 59 coal power plants scrapped last year, the industry wants to make sure it can emerge from the climate change debate with a guaranteed spot in the nation’s energy future. The industry is shopping new uses for the fuel, such as converting it into synthetic diesel and jet fuel through a proposed group of coal-to-liquids plants.

The top presidential candidates are reluctant to draw a hard line against coal, instead advocating for government investments in new technologies to capture carbon from coal plants and store it underground.

The coal industry has given a combined $38 million to federal candidates since stepping up their climate change campaign three years ago. More than 65 percent went to Republicans, according to an analysis of campaign data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The New York Times:

Stymied in their plans to build coal-burning power plants, American utilities are turning to natural gas to meet expected growth in demand, risking a new upward spiral in the price of that fuel.

Utility executives say they have little choice. With opposition to coal plants rising across the country — including a statement by three investment banks Monday saying they are wary of financing new ones — the executives see plants fired by natural gas as the only kind that can be constructed quickly and can supply reliable power day and night.