Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton struggled to answer a question posed by an audience member during Sunday night’s second presidential debate who asked how she would meet U.S. energy needs while not forcing more fossil fuel workers out or work.
“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?” the audience member asked Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“You know that we are now, for the first time, energy independent,” Clinton responded, trying to find her footing after Trump spent several minutes bashing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies she has backed.
“We are not dependent on the Middle East. But the Middle East still controls a lot of the prices. So the price of oil has been way down and that has had a damaging effect on a lot of the oil companies,” she said.
“We are, however, producing a lot of natural gas, which serves as a bridge to more renewable fuels. And that’s an important transition,” she said.
“We’ve got to remain energy independent. We have enough worries over there without worrying about that,” Clinton said.
Clinton has faced intense criticism over comments she made in March that her policies would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”
Clinton also said “we don’t want to forget those people,” referring to her $30 billion spending plan to stimulate the economies of coal communities hard hit by her policies.
Trump, on the other hand, has criticized President Barack Obama’s energy policies, which he said were forcing coal mines to close and lay off thousands of miners. The coal industry has largely lined up behind Trump.
“We’re going to get those miners back to work,” Trump said at a campaign rally earlier this year.
“The miners in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, and Ohio and all over, they’re going to start to work again,” he said. “Believe me. You’re going to be proud again to be miners.”
The U.S. coal industry has shed more than 12,500 jobs since May 2015. Industries supporting mining jobs lost more than 84,000 employees during that time as well, due to low coal and oil prices.
Clinton pivoted from talking about energy independence to touting her plan to make the U.S. a “clean energy superpower” before going on to mention her proposal to
“I have a comprehensive energy policy but it includes fighting climate change because I think that is a serious problem,” Clinton said in the debate, pivoting to talking about her plans to replace coal jobs with green energy jobs.
“I want to be sure we don’t leave people behind. I was the only candidate from the very beginning who had a plan to revitalize coal country. Because those coal miners and their fathers and grandfathers dug that coal out, they lost their lives or were injured, but they turned the lights on and powered our factories. I don’t want to walk away from them,” she said.
“But the price of coal is down worldwide,” she said. “So we have to look at this comprehensively and that’s exactly what I have proposed. I hope you will go to HillaryClinton.com.”
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