In the battle to replace the retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY), don't expect either candidate to run afoul of Big Coal. Kentucky is one of the nation's largest producers of environmentalists' least-favorite fuel source, and both Republican nominee Rand Paul and Democratic nominee Jack Conway have made it clear that when it comes to energy policy, coal comes first.
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"I'm going to judge any energy legislation by four criteria," Conway told me in an interview over the weekend. "Number one: does it do the right thing by Kentucky coal?"
The other criteria are mostly related to coal's influence on things in Kentucky, too. Conway wants an energy bill that he says will protect the state's historically low energy rates, which he claims helps draw business into the state. On cap-and-trade, the phrase du jour in energy policy, Conway says he's worried by a plan that allows "fat cats" to get rich trading pollution credits without much real benefit. He's also concerned by an energy law that doesn't produce a "level playing field" with other polluters around the globe.
In short, Conway is no, say, Barbara Boxer when it comes to energy policy. But that doesn't mean Paul won't try to paint him with a hemp-green brush anyway. Paul is making a huge issue of cap-and-trade, which he says Conway supported before he opposed it. Conway takes issue with that, claiming he's been consistent on energy all along.