White House adviser: 'War on coal is exactly what's needed'

An outside climate change adviser for the White House says a “war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

The comments to The New York Times from Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist and member of the presidential science panel that counseled the White House on climate issues, come the same day Obama is to announce his climate strategy and threaten to overshadow them.

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“Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed,” Schrag, who leads Harvard University's Center for the Environment, told The Times

Republicans immediately seized on the remarks, arguing Obama's climate strategy was a war on the middle class and jobs. 

“It is an astonishing bit of honesty from someone that close to the White House, but it really encapsulates the attitude this administration holds,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

“Declaring a war on coal is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It’s tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today’s economy, and I will be raising this issue at the White House with the president later today,” McConnell said. 

Republicans last year argued environmental regulations rolled out under the president’s watch amounted to a “war on coal” that strangles the economy and burdens low-income consumers with higher energy costs. 

Democrats and the White House argue plummeting natural gas prices have more to do with the coal industry's struggles. They've also touted billions in health care savings from new and proposed regulations.

Obama's climate change plan calls for completing carbon emission rules on new power plants and drafting ones for existing power plants. It also would expand renewable energy production on public lands, bolster energy efficiency standards and call for a more aggressive approach to international climate negotiations.

This story was updated at 11:40 a.m.