"I like coal," Mitt Romney told millions of Americans watching the presidential debate last night.
His opponent, President Barack Obama, preferred to stress support for alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.
"People in the coal industry feel like it's being crushed by your policies," Romney told the president. That certainly is true. Obama, keeping his promise years ago to make coal so expensive power companies would choose other fuels, has used the Environmental Protection Agency as a sledge hammer against mining.
What Romney did not have time to point out during the fast-paced debate was the ramifications of Obama's policy. It will mean higher-priced electricity for millions of American families.
It also will make many companies less competitive and less able to create new jobs - or even to maintain the ones they provide now.
Obama's energy policy represents a gigantic hidden tax on all Americans. We see it every time we pump gasoline, in prices twice as high as they were when the president took office. We see it in electric bills rising in large measure because of the president's war on coal.
Yet, incredibly, Obama attempted Wednesday night to take credit for advances in production of oil and gas in the United States. As Romney emphasized, that happened "not due to (Obama's) policies (but) in spite of his policies. Increases in natural gas and oil production have occurred on private land. "On government land, your administration has cut the number of permits and licenses in half," Romney reminded the president, adding that, when he is president, "I'll double them, and also get the oil from offshore and Alaska. And I'll bring that pipeline from Canada."
Area residents don't need to be reminded Obama cannot take credit for the natural gas drilling boom. We recall that production of gas from the Marcellus Shale formation was beginning before the president took office.
But Obama's war on coal is new. He insists it is needed to safeguard the environment. Romney knows that can be done without destroying the coal industry and wrecking the economies of states like ours. As he stressed Wednesday, "I'm going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal."
Obama's priority is to destroy the coal industry - even if that means a lesser quality of life for many Americans and fewer jobs in the U.S. economy.
"I like coal," Romney said.
The word never crossed Obama's lips.