ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Former congressman Zack Space disputes Mitt Romney's claims that the Obama administration has been bad for coal, noting both employment and production in the nation's coal mines have increased in the past few years.
Space, a Democrat who lost his re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Bob Gibbs, also questions Romney's record on coal when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.
With Romney set to visit the American Century Mine in Beallsville today, Space joined the Obama campaign for a news conference called Monday with reporters in Ohio.
Space said Obama and Romney present "competing political visions" about what is best for the coal industry.
"Hearing the outrageous distortions Mitt Romney has made on the president's record on coal lately, it is clear Romney knows he's got a coal problem," Space said. "Not so long ago, when he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney took a hard line against coal, even saying, 'Coal plants kill people,' and that he would not protect jobs that kill people.
"Now that he's running for president, he's trying to hide that record by attacking" Obama, Space said of Romney.
Obama knows how important clean coal is to building a secure energy future and has made it part of his "all the above" energy plan, Space claimed.
"President Obama has made historic investments in clean coal technology and has taken important steps to keep miners safe," Space said. "Under the president's stewardship, in Ohio both the number of coal mining jobs and overall production have increased since he took office. As a result, there are more than 3,000 coal mining jobs in Ohio and more than 90,000 coal mining jobs across the country."
According to Space, the Obama administration is investing more than $5 billion in carbon capture and sequestration technology research, taking place at the University of Toledo and Ohio State University.
Employment in the coal industry reached a 15-year high last year, Space continued. Since Obama took office, he said, coal mining employment has risen by 10 percent and coal production has increased by 7 percent. Much of that coal is being exported to other countries, and not being used here in the United States.
"Meanwhile, Gov. Romney has to answer for the anti-coal position he's taken as governor and as a presidential candidate," Space said. "He's pretending to be an advocate for the coal industry, but his choice of running mate (Rep. Paul Ryan) and his record as governor of Massachusetts prove otherwise."
Obama also has taken anti-coal positions in the past, most notably in a 2007 interview when he told a San Francisco newspaper, "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."