Biggest war in climate talks starts now — and it’s nasty

Energy and climate change are no longer second-guessing the tobacco wars. It’s now pure litmus test of political allegiances: Who is for clean energy and whom is for dirty?

— William McKibben, author of “Deep Economy: How Corporate Greed and Government Failures are Sinking the Global Economy”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President Obama’s “bipartisan group of energy senators” led a discussion on Monday with the new climate and energy czar.

What McConnell said was no surprise, except he added a few things. His ire didn’t center on fossil fuels, but coal.

He warned that states banning coal are hurting their economies and risking being outsmarted by the new clean energy technologies that are already offering more attractive investment options.

The facts won’t fool him, though. Three months ago, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the nation’s biggest business lobby, dropped a question-and-answer session with David Goldwyn, an Obama energy policy adviser. Mr. Goldwyn was the top lobbyist for Peabody Coal, one of the biggest domestic emitters of greenhouse gases. ALEC chose not to take Goldwyn’s advice, and kept him away from its “coal and uranium, and shale gas” events.

In energy circles, the closest thing to a transparency fight has erupted between the clean energy allies and those who favor coal and natural gas, as well as those who prefer oil, nuclear and hydroelectricity over renewables. With a state ban against coal, Obama, Pelosi and Obama championing it at every opportunity, the $900 billion coal industry — and the manufacturers, coal-fueled utilities and infrastructure builders that depend on it — are on the defensive.

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