Will Democrats choose the climate change agenda over jobs?
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What a difference eight years makes. Back in 2008, then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMissing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani On The Money: Trump downplays urgency of China trade talks | Chinese negotiators cut US trip short in new setback | Trump sanctions Iran's national bank | Survey finds Pennsylvania, Wisconsin lost the most factory jobs in past year Meghan McCain, Ana Navarro get heated over whistleblower debate MORE (D-N.Y.) handily defeated then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE (D-Ill.) in the West Virginia Democratic primary, 67 percent to 26 percent. This time around, Clinton lost the Mountaineer State by nearly 16 percentage points to socialist-turned-Democratic-socialist Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (Vt.).

Why the change of heart? Exit polls may reveal some answers.

According to West Virginia voters, only a scant 26 percent of the electorate is looking for a candidate who will continue Obama's policies. And with an unemployment rate at 6.4 percent that doesn't even consider the number of those that have given up on finding work, it's no wonder West Virginians are looking for a change.

Unfortunately for the Democratic front-runner, a Clinton presidency is providing little hope for a marked change from the last seven years under an Obama administration.


Part of the reason is that Clinton seems bent in doubling down on President Obama's heavy-handed environmental policies that are having a devastating effect on coal-mining states like West Virginia. Under Obama's guidance, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been using its regulatory authority to effectively close down coal-fired power plants. And it's only thanks to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court rebuking the administration's environmental agenda that such actions have been put on a temporary hold.

But if we are to take Clinton at her word, expect the Obama administration's war on coal to continue in earnest if she wins the White House. For proof, consider the Clinton's own remarks at a town hall while campaigning in Columbus, Ohio: "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business."

These devastating comments were made weeks before West Virginians went to the polls and surely played a role in explaining why voters preferred the Democratic-socialist senator from Vermont over the former secretary of State. And this is also why Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinClarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump Schumer: I don't know any 'Democrat who agrees' with O'Rourke on gun seizures O'Rourke: Many Democrats 'complicit' in gun problem MORE (D-W.Va.) has been doing his best to distance himself from fellow Democrats Clinton and Obama and their singular aim of decimating a coal industry responsible for employing thousands upon thousands of hardworking Americans not only in his state, but all across the country.

Not surprisingly, Manchin was recently quoted as saying: "From my first day in the Senate, I've fought against Obama's war on coal, his out-of-touch public policies, and will continue to defend West Virginia's way of life against any group, any politician, and any president."

Kathleen Hartnett White, a senior fellow in energy and environment at the free-market think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation (and a contributor to The Hill), told Opportunity Lives (an online news publication for which I am senior writer) that the senator's comments are not surprising, adding: "Coal remains the workhorse of reliable, affordable electric generation — the mainstay of 24/7 reliable generation and perhaps the only hope for hundreds of millions of human beings in poor countries who have never seen a light switch."

White also suspects that the administration's energy policies are being pushed by radical environmental groups that are indifferent to the economic impact that takes place in the sake of fighting climate change.

"Systematically supporting and implementing the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, the EPA has nearly destroyed an entire industry, state economies and thousands of jobs. And for what? China, India, and other developing countries plan to build over 2000 coal fired power plants and likely without the wide array of emission control technologies that have dramatically reduced real pollution," said White.

With national polls showing that jobs and the economy are the most important issues for the American electorate, it's a mighty gambit to ignore the job losses that will result in continuing President Obama's environmental policies. Secretary Clinton seems convinced she can win the presidency by scaring the American people into imagining what a Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE White House would look like.

But for people in states that are heavily dependent on energy jobs, this line of attack may ring hollow and could end up costing Clinton an otherwise sure thing.

Ortega is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow him on Twitter @IzzyOrtega.