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Coal is playing a major role in this year's contests to win over Virginia voters. From President Obama touting his support for "clean coal" to Mitt Romney declaring, "I like coal," the jet black fossil fuel is witnessing a resurgence. Republicans, such as Virginia Senate candidate George Allen, are able to rev up their base by blaming high energy costs on the Environmental Protection Agency.
"We have unfortunately, what's happening with the EPA, is they're outlawing coal," Allen says.
Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine is also aggressively courting voters in the state's coal region, holding more than 80 events in Southwestern towns. Kaine's campaign also had a coal miner named Jeff cut this ad.
"I'm worried about my future. Peabody Energy put our pensions at risk. Pensions we coal miners earned with sweat and blood," Jeff says. "George Allen represented Peabody Energy. They're one of his biggest donors. Allen knows where his bread is buttered — he's for the big boys."
But University of Kentucky Professor Ernie Yanarella says all the attention on coal is funny, because many utilities have been moving to natural gas. It's currently much cheaper and cleaner, he says.
"Coal very likely will have its last hurrah in the next three to five years and then experience a continuing and then precipitous decline," Yanarella says.
All the attention comes, in part, because the coal industry dropped nearly $10 million on this year's elections. With high energy prices the coal campaign seems to be working, even if analysts expect it to be a short lived resurgence in popularity.