In 2008, Rand Paul called coal 'one of the least favorable forms of energy'

Chris Moody
Political Reporter

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul slammed the Obama administration Monday for announcing a plan to reduce carbon output from power plants — particularly coal — despite having himself heaved criticism at coal, calling it in 2008 “one of the least favorable forms of energy.”

"This latest assault on our economy by President Obama will destroy jobs here in Kentucky and across the country, and will hurt middle class families by hiking their utility bills and straining their budgets,” Paul said in a statement Monday after the Environmental Protection Agency announced an aggressive plan to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The administration’s proposed rule is aimed at curbing the effects of global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

“The excessive rule is an illegal use of executive power, and I will force a vote to repeal it,” Paul said.

But comments the Kentuckian made six years ago may suggest he once shared views similar to Barack Obama's. While speaking at a rally for Ron Paul's first Republican presidential campaign in Chattanooga, Tenn., in February 2008, the younger Paul criticized coal for the pollution it causes and touted nuclear energy instead.

“Nuclear power is the cleanest form of energy that you have. France is virtually independent of oil because 70 percent of their energy comes nuclear power. Now does nuclear power have to be done safely? Yes. But compare nuclear power with coal power. I mean coal power is a very dirty form of energy,” Paul said at the rally for his father. “It’s probably one of the least favorable forms of energy.”

Senator Rand Paul answer questions during a meet and greet event Friday, May 30, 2014, at the Garrard County Cooperative Extension Office in Lancaster, KY. (AP Photo/The Advocate-Messenger, Clay Jackson)

When Paul ran for the Senate in 2010, his Republican primary opponent, Trey Grayson, used the clip to argue that Paul was anticoal. “Rand Paul supports using what coal we have here until a better energy source comes along," a Paul spokesman said in response at the time.

Flash forward four years, when Republicans are protesting the EPA’s new rules by accusing Obama of continuing what they call a “war on coal” that will cost American jobs. “The War On Coal Rages On,” read a press release from the Republican National Committee Monday.

The battle over regulation of power plants is playing out most prominently in coal states with high-stakes congressional elections. In Kentucky, where Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is facing a challenge from Democratic Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell used the EPA decision to slam his opponent.

“Alison Lundergan Grimes was recruited by President Obama, who said he would ‘bankrupt’ the coal industry, and Harry Reid, who said ‘coal makes us sick’ and she is being funded by liberals nationwide who know that a vote for her is a vote to ensure further implementation of their anti-coal agenda in the U.S. Senate,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement. Grimes, however, rejects Obama's plan. “President Obama’s new EPA rule is more proof that Washington isn’t working for Kentucky. Coal keeps the lights on in the Commonwealth, providing a way for thousands of Kentuckians to put food on their tables. When I’m in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the President’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry because protecting our jobs will be my number one priority," she said in a statement.

The 2008 press release promoting the event where Rand Paul raised questions about coal was sent out by Ron Paul’s former spokesman Jesse Benton, who now works as the campaign manager to McConnell’s re-election campaign.