Industry turns to NASCAR as coal defense gets political

Bloomberg reports the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is tapping the great American sport of NASCAR racing in a bid to win popular support for the coal industry:

"Last month it announced it would sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports team. An 18-wheel, mobile classroom will also be featured at NASCAR events to showcase the benefits of the fossil fuel, said Miller, the group’s spokeswoman, in an interview."

The American Energy Alliance is also spending $3.6 million targeting President Obama on gasoline prices. Coal-focused political action committees (PACs) have spent over $5 million on political donations with about 87% going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics quoted by Bloomberg.

Big Coal's efforts to shore up support for the industry comes as the coal sector is under increasing pressure from cheaper natural gas, as well as more regulation and government plans to phase out coal-fired power plants. Coal once accounted for over half of the country's electricity but has now slipped to just over 40%.

The issue is getting political, with Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney saying he supports coal and accusing President Obama of making it "harder to mine for coal" through EPA rules such as the first-ever limits on mercury emissions and restrictions on mountaintop mining. Obama has courted no favour amongst the industry for omitting mention of coal during his State of the Union address and during a four-state tour, Bloomberg noted.