Huge Gristmill big-ups to Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who late last week cast a crucial vote in the Senate EPW committee to scuttle a coal-to-liquid amendment. The committee’s been trying to craft an energy package; they had agreed to table contentious issues like CTL for open debate on the floor, but Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo) put forth his measure anyway. It would have created a substantial mandate for liquid coal fuels — 21 billion gallons annually by 2022 — and could have killed the bill entirely.

Tester isn’t against coal. He supports it; he’s from a coal state. But as his spokesflack says, Tester believes “we must first pave the way for a sustainable and responsible future in coal development by ensuring the capture and storage of carbon emissions.” He realizes that blundering ahead with coal before addressing its emissions is tantamount to collective suicide, and he’s not willing to sign on with that for the sake of a big-money industry in his state.

That, I submit, is a sign of character, and an affirmation that Montanans were right to trust their instincts about the guy with the flat top.

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