TUESDAY UPDATE #4: FOX 31′s Eli Stokols, in a story titled “Romney attacks fall flat in Colorado coal country.”
An area coal mine, Peabody Energy’s Twenty Mile, stopped production and bused in 148 miners to attend Romney’s event. Men wearing the trademark mining uniform of blue overalls with crisscrossing reflective neon stripes stood in clumps among the audience.
The general manager of Peabody’s Colorado operations, Pat Sollars, said the miners would be compensated for the time they spent at the event.
Sollars told reporters Romney understood how important coal production was to the nation’s economic security and growth, and said the president “doesn’t view coal as an essential element” in the nation’s energy future.
But he could not point to any Obama-era decisions that had affected the coal business here. [Pols emphasis] Instead, he said he was worried about what the president could do if re-elected.
And National Journal’s Sarah Huisenga:
Craig’s recent economic situation has been largely positive, said the town’s mayor, Terry Carwile. “Nobody’s been laying people off or anything like that,” said Carwile, a retired coal miner. “As a matter a fact, they’ve been hiring.”
Coal production in Colorado and Utah rose 25 percent in the third quarter of 2011, compared with the same period a year earlier, according to a November 2011 Denver Post article.
The political website ColoradoPols.com also indicated that the problems Craig and other coal-producing communities have suffered are due to state and not federal issues. It said the biggest perceived threat to Craig’s coal production is not Environmental Protection Agency regulations, but a bipartisan law signed in 2010 that aims to convert some of Colorado coal energy production to natural gas by 2017.
TUESDAY UPDATE #3: This is getting ridiculous, folks. ABC News:
Romney tweaked President Obama on his energy policies, asking the crowd, “He said he was going to create some 5 million green energy jobs. Have you seen those around here anywhere?”
Well, if Mitt Romney were to watch FOX Business, he might have seen:
Ten States Where Green Jobs Thrive
Colorado’s clean economy has grown at nearly twice the rate of the nation’s between 2003 and 2010. [Pols emphasis] Now, more than 72,000 state residents have green jobs. Conservation is the largest segment for green jobs, although companies like Ball Aerospace & Technologies have helped make fuel cells the fastest growing green sector. The Colorado Springs metropolitan area has among the country’s highest rates of clean economy jobs that are green collar…
Next up: Romney says California should get our water, and makes a joke about your mother.
Because this really can’t get much worse.
TUESDAY UPDATE #2: The desired message for Mitt Romney’s campaign seems to be kind of epically running aground here, as the New York Times now reports from Craig:
“The economy here in Craig and in Moffat County does seem stronger than a lot of our Western Slope communities,” said Ryan Call, the chairman of the state Republican Party. “And that’s good. That’s a good thing.” [Pols emphasis]
…Terry Carwile, the mayor of Craig and a retired coal miner, went further, saying that the economy was “getting better” in the town of 9,500 as oil speculation intensified. He played down the suggestion that federal regulations had wounded the local coal industry.
“The policies of the federal government really aren’t that impactful to us so far,” he said. [Pols emphasis] He acknowledged that they were “a concern,” though, and that residents were ever wary of government meddling in their biggest industry.
That was not the message from Mr. Romney, who spoke to about 1,000 residents in a park near the town’s center…
TUESDAY UPDATE: Politico’s Reid Epstein with the early story from Craig:
Romney was introduced by local hotel owner Frank Moe, who with his wife Kerrie, starred in the film titled “The Perfect Storm over Craig, Colorado,” that was produced by Energy for America, a joint project of the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity. Both groups are funded primarily by the Koch brothers.
“When Kerrie and I cried out for help and relief from Obama’s overregulation of the energy industry and his failed economic policies that are hurting out community, Mitt Romney is the one who answered the call,” Frank Moe told the crowd.
But the regulations about which Moe – whose hotel, where Romney and the traveling press stayed Monday night, largely caters to employees of oil, gas and coal companies – complained were implemented by state officials, particularly former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter. [Pols emphasis]
That’s pretty much what we’re saying, yes.
As the Craig Daily Press alluded to yesterday, there’s a little more to the upcoming visit by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to this remote northwest Colorado town than meets the eye:
Frank Moe, owner of Deer Park Inn and Suites in Craig, sent Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign a video earlier this year produced by Energy America.
The video, titled “The Perfect Storm Over Craig, Colorado,” highlighted the community’s economic dependence on the energy industry.
Along with the video was an invitation from Moe to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to visit Craig.
“We (thought) this would be a good place for him to make the point that he is (in favor of) all forms of energy,” Moe said.
Now, “Energy America’s” correct name is Energy for America, a joint project of the American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity–two very active political groups largely funded by the oil and gas industry, including the Koch brothers. And here’s where it gets kind of interesting–from the press release for the video, The Perfect Storm Over Craig, Colorado:
The American Energy Alliance released Tuesday a video telling the story of Craig, Colo., a small town of approximately 10,000 people and home to the Centennial State’s largest coal-fired power generating plant. But due to Colorado’s energy mandate that requires 30 percent of the state’s electricity generation come from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by the year 2020, and an increasingly hostile regulatory regime at the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Craig is facing tremendous economic uncertainty…
And of course, these groups are spending millions attacking Barack Obama over gas prices. Mitt Romney is making a campaign stop in a town that serves as the subject of a propaganda film from the same organization running millions of ads against President Obama. This might seem a little, you know, squirrely all by itself, but there’s a bigger issue that needs addressing.
The biggest problem is there are local issues playing out in Craig that national audiences are not going to understand in advance of Tuesday’s visit. To start with, Colorado’s biggest electric utility, Xcel Energy, has said that the 2010 30% state renewable energy standard is not a problem–in fact, Xcel expects to meet that standard several years ahead of schedule.
And we really don’t get the logic: is Mitt Romney running against Bill Ritter?
Next: the biggest perceived threat to Craig’s coal production is not the 30% renewable standard, or even EPA regulations–it’s the historic, bipartisan “Clean Air, Clean Jobs” plan, signed in 2010 by Gov. Ritter, that aims to convert some of Colorado coal energy production to natural gas by 2017. That’s what Craig coal miners are in court fighting, even though the deal includes upgrades for coal power plants to help them comply with EPA “mandates!”
And the bottom line? Coal production in Colorado is going up, not down. Any reduction in local coal consumption is expected to be made up by increasing exports of our cleaner coal eastward, to help their plants comply with emission standards. And Kinder-Morgan, who for all we know may have helped fund the production of The Perfect Storm Over Craig, is now exporting millions of tons of Colorado coal to international markets through Houston.
With all of this in mind, what will Romney talk about on Tuesday? Will he attack Colorado’s renewable energy standard, which appears to be working–and Romney’s opponent had nothing to do with? Will he attack “Clean Air, Clean Jobs,” another state-based deal and the shining achievement of fellow Republicans like former Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry?
One way or another, it’s going to take some major factual abridgments to turn this stuff into a usable sound bite for Romney’s campaign. It’s either the wrong message, or the wrong target.