John McCain statements on coal

From Global Energy Monitor

John McCain supports increasing coal power production, while advocating for the implementation of carbon capture and sequestering technologies on coal plants. McCain has expressed optimism that we will find ways to burn coal without emitting dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.[1] McCain has also stated that he would support coal gasification research and development.[2]

McCain believes the science supporting global warming is accurate. His energy plan calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, largely through the use of nuclear power, clean coal technologies, and a cap-and-trade system. In 2003, he co-sponsored the first Senate bill to fight global warming through supporting nuclear power, clean coal, and new fossil fuel exploration in the U.S. [3] More broadly, he takes the role of government to be limited in developing renewable technologies like solar and wind,[4] yet is proposing a $2 billion government subsidy for clean coal research and development.[5]

In 2007, John McCain received a zero score from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) for his congressional voting record on environmental issues. The LCV used 15 key votes to assemble its annual congressional scorecard; McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every environmental vote on the list.[6][7]

Below is a list of statements made by John McCain and his campaign about coal issues.

"Clean" Coal

  • "The United States has coal reserves more abundant than Saudi Arabia's oil reserves. We found a way to cut down acid rain pollutants from burning coal, and we can find a way to use our coal resources without emitting excessive greenhouse gases," in a speech on energy policy on April 23, 2007.[8]
  • "I'd like to see coal gasification, and I would subsidize R&D in that effort. I'm all for government funding basic R&D, by the way. I really believe that we're going to have to use a kind of a coal [technology] that does not emit the greenhouse gases that present-day coal-fired utility plants do," in an interview with Grist and Outside magazine in October 2007.[2]
  • "Perhaps no advancement in energy technology could mean more to America than the clean burning of coal and the capture and storage of carbon emissions. And to this end, as president, I will commit two billion dollars each year on clean-coal research and development. We will build the demonstration plants, refine the techniques and equipment, and make clean coal a reality. This single achievement will open vast amounts of our oldest and most abundant resource. And it will deliver not only electricity but jobs to some of the areas hardest hit by our economic troubles," in a speech on energy and environmental policy in Missouri on June 18, 2008.[9]
  • "The good that clean coal can do extends around the world -- and into its skies. Once we supply the means of clean-burning coal and carbon capture, nations everywhere will pursue the same end: abundant energy with low carbon emissions. China in particular has enormous coal reserves that could power its continued economic growth cleanly and efficiently. And by mastering the technology, America will lead the way," in a speech on energy and environmental policy in Missouri on June 18, 2008.[9]
  • "Perhaps no achievement would do more to secure our energy future than the mastery of clean-coal technology. From Wyoming to West Virginia, America's coal resources are greater than the oil riches of any kingdom of the Middle East. Burning coal cleanly is a challenge of practical problem-solving and human ingenuity -- and we have no shortage of those in America either. So, as president, I will commit two billion dollars each year, until 2024, to clean-coal research, development, and deployment. We will build the demonstration plants. We will refine the techniques and equipment. We will deliver not only electricity but jobs to some of the areas hardest hit by our economic troubles. And in the end, we will make clean coal a reality," in a speech in Las Vegas, NV on June 25, 2008.[10]
  • “We’re sitting on the world’s largest coal reserves,” he said. “We are dependent of foreign oil to the point where it is an economic, environmental and international security issue, so we must make use of coal, and I believe we can through the use of clean coal technologies,” at a stop in West Virginia in July 2008.[11]
  • "I think we can eliminate greenhouse gas emissions through clean coal technology as well. A lot of the technology is there - one aspect of it is the cost,” at a stop in West Virginia in July 2008.[11]
  • "Coal is America's greatest natural resource, as far as energy is concerned. We sit on the world's largest supply of it... The technology here, right here at Consol, that's being developed here, is capable of creating and will create hundreds of thousands of jobs as we adopt clean coal technology," during a meeting at Consol Energy in West Virginia in July 2008.[12]
  • In response to the CEO of Consol Energy's agreement that McCain's proposed $2 billion investment in clean coal research is the correct amount: "Probably because we got it from you... Actually, we talked to environmentalists, we talked to everyone -- a little sarcasm there," during a meeting at Consol Energy in West Virginia in July 2008.[12]
  • "John McCain will commit $2 billion annually to advancing clean coal technologies. Coal produces the majority of our electricity today. Some believe that marketing viable clean coal technologies could be over 15 years away. John McCain believes that this is too long to wait, and we need to commit significant federal resources to the science, research and development that advance this critical technology. Once commercialized, the U.S. can then export these technologies to countries like China that are committed to using their coal - creating new American jobs and allowing the U.S. to play a greater role in the international green economy," campaign platform on the John McCain website in August 2008.[5]
  • "My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles... We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. It's an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead," in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, September 4, 2008.[13]
  • "We can work on nuclear power plants. Build a whole bunch of them, create millions of new jobs. We have to have all of the above, alternative fuels, wind, tide, solar, natural gas, clean coal technology. All of these things we can do as Americans and we can take on this mission and we can overcome it," at the Second Presidential Debate, October 7, 2008.[14]


  • "I'm for any new technologies that will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions -- hydrogen, all of those things," in an October 2007 interview with Grist and Outside, in response to a question about his position on coal-to-liquids.[2]

Coal and Global Warming

  • "The burning of oil and other fossil fuels is contributing to the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere, altering our climate with the potential for major social, economic, and political upheaval. The world is already feeling the powerful effects of global warming, and far more dire consequences are predicted if we let the growing deluge of greenhouse-gas emissions continue, and wreak havoc with God's creation," in a speech on energy policy on April 23, 2007.[1]
  • "We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters, and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring. We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great," in a climate speech in Oregon on May 12, 2008.[8]
  • "Like other environmental challenges -- only more so -- global warming presents a test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next. We need to think straight about the dangers ahead, and to meet the problem with all the resources of human ingenuity at our disposal," in a climate speech in Oregon on May 12, 2008.[8]
  • “I think we all appreciate now, including the coal industry, that climate change (and) greenhouse gas emissions are an issue that needs to be addressed. In the last 18 months to two years, the coal industry recognized that and has basically changed their position,” at a stop in West Virginia in July 2008.[11]
  • "Greenhouse Gas Emission Targets And Timetables:
    • 2012: Return Emissions To 2005 Levels (18 Percent Above 1990 Levels)
    • 2020: Return Emissions To 1990 Levels (15 Percent Below 2005 Levels)
    • 2030: 22 Percent Below 1990 Levels (34 Percent Below 2005 Levels)
    • 2050: 60 Percent Below 1990 Levels (66 Percent Below 2005 Levels)" - campaign platform from the John McCain website in August 2008.[5]

Cap and Trade

  • "Enormous good came from... industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren't counting, and these have added up now, in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and all across the natural world. And what better way to correct past errors than to turn the creative energies of the free market in the other direction? Under the cap-and-trade system, this can happen. In all its power, the profit motive will suddenly begin to shift and point the other way toward cleaner fuels, wiser ways, and a healthier planet. As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy. It is very hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, small businesses and environmentalists all working to the same good purpose. But such cooperation is actually possible, and this reform will set it in motion," in a speech in Las Vegas, NV on June 25, 2008.[10]
  • "John McCain proposes a cap-and-trade system that would set limits on greenhouse gas emissions while encouraging the development of low-cost compliance options. A climate cap-and-trade mechanism would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow entities to buy and sell rights to emit, similar to the successful acid rain trading program of the early 1990s. The key feature of this mechanism is that it allows the market to decide and encourage the lowest-cost compliance options... A cap-and-trade system harnesses human ingenuity in the pursuit of alternatives to carbon-based fuels. Market participants are allotted total permits equal to the cap on greenhouse gas emissions. If they can invent, improve, or acquire a way to reduce their emissions, they can sell their extra permits for cash. The profit motive will coordinate the efforts of venture capitalists, corporate planners, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists on the common motive of reducing emissions... The cap-and-trade system would encompass electric power, transportation fuels, commercial business, and industrial business - sectors responsible for just under 90 percent of all emissions. Small businesses would be exempt. Initially, participants would be allowed to either make their own GHG reductions or purchase 'offsets' - financial instruments representing a reduction, avoidance, or sequestration of greenhouse gas emissions practiced by other activities, such as agriculture - to cover 100 percent of their required reductions. Offsets would only be available through a program dedicated to ensure that all offset GHG emission reductions are real, measured and verifiable. The fraction of GHG emission reductions permitted via offsets would decline over time," campaign platform on the John McCain website in August 2008.[5]
  • "Emissions permits will eventually be auctioned to support the development of advanced technologies. A portion of the process of these auctions will be used to support a diversified portfolio of research and commercialization challenges, ranging from carbon capture and sequestration, to nuclear power, to battery development. Funds will also be used to provide provide financial backing for a Green Innovation Financing and Transfer (GIFT) to facilitate commercialization," campaign platform on the John McCain website in August 2008.[5]



  1. 1.0 1.1 " John McCain's Speech On Energy Policy", John McCain website, April 23, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 McCain on the Record: An interview with John McCain about his presidential platform on energy and the environment, Grist, October 1, 2007.
  3. Sen. John McCain The Daily Green, October 25, 2007.
  4. “No Climate for Old Men," Joseph Romm, Salon, February 8, 2008
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "The Lexington Project: Breaking Our Dependence on Foreign Oil", John McCain 2008, accessed August 2008.
  6. National Environmental Scorecard, League of Conservation Voters, accessed August 2008.
  7. "McCain Scores ZERO on Environment; Clinton and Obama Do Better", Larry West,, accessed August 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Look at John McCain's Environmental Platform and Record, Grist, June 16, 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Remarks By John McCain On Energy Security And The Economy", Coal Utilization Research Council, June 18, 2008.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "McCain's Speech on His Comprehensive Plan for Energy Security", Center on Foreign Relations, June 25, 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 McCain proposes $2B for clean coal, Times West Virginian], July 19, 2008.
  12. 12.0 12.1 McCain Lauds Consol's Work in Clean Coal, West Virginia Coal Association, July 11, 2008.
  13. "John McCain's Republican National Convention 2008 Speech Transcript," Zimbio, September 5, 2008.
  14. "Transcript: Second Presidential Debate", October 7, 2008.

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