Terry McAuliffe wasn’t hot about coal in 2009 when he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
"We have got to move past coal," he said during an April 29 debate that year. "As governor, I never want another coal plant built. I want us to build wind farms, biomass, biodiesel and solar. That’s my emphasis."
McAuliffe also issued a 30-page energy plan in 2009 that called for the development of clean energies and offered no hope for coal, other than an eagerness to retrain workers leaving the industry. He called for upgrades in emission controls that would make Virginia coal plants "the cleanest in America" and make the state "a leader in carbon sequestration."
This year, McAuliffe seized his party’s gubernatorial nomination without opposition and Republicans are claiming he’s taken a much warmer position toward the fading coal industry, a long-time staple of the economy in Southwest Virginia.
Proof of change, the GOP says, can be found in a May 8 article in the Bristol Herald Courier which quotes McAuliffe -- after visiting the headquarters of Alpha Natural Resources, one of the nation’s largest producers of thermal and metallurgical coal -- as saying he wants to help the coal industry grow.
"I was over at Alpha Natural Resources talking about what they need done to make sure we have a healthy work force of coal, that coal can continue," McAuliffe told reporters. "We need to make sure we do what we need to, to make sure this vital industry here in Virginia continues to grow. I can really help them on exports; to open up those Asia markets in China and Korea. As governor, I want to help them create more jobs to help exports around the world."
Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for McAuliffe, did not reply to three requests to explain whether his boss’s coal policy had changed.
Schwerin, however, did provide some information to The Virginian-Pilot in a May 23 article. "Terry believes we need to support coal workers, both through increased exports throughout the world, and workforce training to ensure that displaced workers can find new careers," he said. "The fact is, we need an all of the above energy policy that focuses on increasing renewable energy like wind and solar while supporting existing Virginia industries."
Comparing all the statements, it’s clear McAuliffe is friendlier to coal now then he was four years ago, when he urged Virginia to "move past coal." This year, unlike 2009, he is promising to help the industry "grow," promising to promote coal exports to Asian markets and calling for an "all of the above energy policy."
McAuliffe does not mention coal in a 13-page agenda entitled "Keeping Virginia Competitive in a Global Economy," or on campaign website site posts about his agendas on energy and jobs. In each of the postings, he talks up the need to create clean energy jobs -- particularly wind power.
But McAuliffe’s words in Bristol ring loudly. We rate his new position on coal a Full Flop.