Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Obama coal connection: Nevada adviser is a big coal promoter

Presidential candidate Barack Obama caused a commotion last year by promoting the controversial idea of turning coal into liquid fuel. The idea was controversial because the process could produce more global warming pollution.

Obama appeared to back off somewhat following criticism that liquid coal would undermine his own position (shared by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) that global warming pollution should be reduced. Many of us wrote it off as a rookie mistake.

But now, with the Nevada caucuses looming, the Obama-coal connection has resurfaced. It involves the role of a big Nevada adviser to Obama who is also heavily promoting coal. (The issue is very relevant in Nevada, which has become a poster child in the fight over America’s energy future – fossil fuels versus renewable energy. Several large coal-burning electric power plants have been proposed, to the consternation of environmental groups and numerous other critics including nurses, hunters, etc.)

Enter Obama adviser Billy Vassiliadis, the CEO and Principal of R&R Partners, the firm responsible for managing the second most recognizable brand in the world, Las Vegas, creating the famous "What Happens Here, Stays Here" slogan.

But his firm ALSO represents Sierra Pacific Resources, which wants to build a new coal-burning plant in Nevada. R&R also is the PR and advertising firm for a coal industry front group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices , which is advertising heavily in Nevada. (This coal group is spending like a drunken sailor; it’s hard to miss all its spots on CNN and during presidential debates, including in Nevada.)

These “Americans” include big coal interests such as Peabody Energy, Southern Company, Duke Energy, American Electric Power, CSX Railroad and many others.

The question some environmentalists are asking: how does Obama reconcile his platform with some of his people? Isn’t he at least a wee bit uncomfortable about this?

Interestingly, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which has endorsed Obama, also published a fairly snide editorial this week – attacking the Sierra Club, raising doubts about global warming, and citing Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. You gotta give R&R points for being effective.

No comments: