So why did Obama introduce the "Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007," a bill that would promote the use of coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, as a transportation fuel and make global warming a lot worse?
When Obama introduced the coal-to-liquids bill back in January, he drew catcalls from environmentalists. Frank O'Donnell, the executive director of a Washington group called the Clean Air Watch, told Grist
's Amanda Griscom Little: "Obama may be a climate crusader, but in this case he's marching in the wrong direction."
Environmentalists are appalled. Frances Bienecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me: "If you fill your Prius with liquid coal, it would be like driving a Hummer." She described the coal-to-liquids proposal, as now written, as "an ecological disaster."
I take no pleasure is saying that this will damage Obama. I read his autobiography, Dreams From My Father
, a few months ago, and came away very impressed. I want to believe that he is a different kind of political leader.
But by supporting a Big Coal boondoggle, Obama is not simply disappointing those voters who care about environmental issues.
He is undermining his own claim to be above politics, to be the kind of leader who looks beyond narrow, parochial interests to do what's right for all Americans.