Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsThe Republican National Committee and the McCain campaign have launched robocalls in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other coal states attacking Barack Obama on the issue of coal.

“I’m calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC to tell you that coal jobs, which are so important to our community, are in jeopardy,” says the robocall. It accuses Obama of planning “to bankrupt the coal industry.”

The targeting of Obama’s coal rhetoric ramped up over the weekend, when an audio tape of Obama talking to the San Francisco Chronicle in January about regulating carbon emissions and the future of coal appeared on YouTube.

In the interview, Obama talks about a cap-and-trade system in which polluters will have to buy credits to offset their emissions, which he says will encourage energy producers to pursue cleaner sources.

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“So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama said in the interview.

In the audio file of the interview, he also takes on environmentalists who would like to eliminate coal as an energy source altogether.

“The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — I haven’t been some coal booster,” Obama said. “What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.”

Obama’s campaign says the tape has been “wildly edited.” In a statement, the campaign argued that, “The point Obama is making is that we need to transition from coal-burning power plants built with old technology to plants built with advanced technologies — and that is exactly the action that will be incentivized under a cap-and-trade program.”

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The McCain camp has seized upon the remarks, however, through the robocalls and in speeches.

Sarah Palin brought it up at a rally in Ohio: “[Obama] said that, sure, if the industry wants to build new coal-fired plants, then they can go ahead and try … but they can do it only in a way that will bankrupt the coal industry, and he’s comfortable letting that happen.”

And McCain did too, at a rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday: “My friends, you know what Sen. Obama said about a year ago, he said he had not been a, quote, coal booster. My friends, I’ve been a coal booster and it’s going to create jobs, and we’re going to export coal to other countries and we are going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

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