Ted Strickland, former Ohio governor, denies there is a war against coal, though he acknowledged the coal industry is "under some pressure."
"But that is coming from the natural gas industry," he said. "Some industries and utilities are finding natural gas more attractive as a fuel because it is so cheap and plentiful. But that's not due to politics. That's due to economic issues."
Strickland, a Democrat, defended the coal policy of President Barack Obama's during a telephone interview with The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on Tuesday.
Strickland said the coal industry in the state "has done pretty well" under Obama, and he noted Republican challenger Mitt Romney had a pro-environmental record when Romney was governor of Massachusetts.
Romney, as governor, took a hard stance against polluters in Massachusetts including those in the mining industry, and he worked to combat climate change, according to information provided by the Obama campaign.
"I think he is a hypocrite when it comes to the coal issue," Strickland said of Romney. "When he was governor of Massachusetts, he was so anti-coal - and he bragged about it.
"He very significantly increased fines on coal, and he bragged he brought enforcement against coal power plants. He has a different story now, and no wonder - he's running for president. And he has changed his tune, so to speak."
Obama, meanwhile, has a record of putting "very large amounts" of money into clean coal research, according to Strickland. The Obama administration said in June it has a strategy to invest $5 billion in clean coal technologies and research and development.
"The coal industry in Ohio has actually done pretty well under Mr. Obama, and I believe coal production has actually increased since he has been president," Strickland said. "I believe there are more people working in mines now than before the president became president.
"For Mitt Romney to come to Ohio now and pretend to be a friend of coal, given his history when he was governor of Massachusetts, and to blame the president for conducting a war on coal is inaccurate, unfair and hypocritical on behalf of Mr. Romney."
He disagrees there is a war against coal being waged by the Obama administration. He said it is a fallacy being perpetuated by coal operators such as Robert Murray of Murray Energy.
Strickland acknowledged the coal being produced locally is being used both domestically and being exported.
"The coal industry thrives regardless of where the coal is used," he said. "The jobs are created."
Based on the records of the two candidates, Romney's record "has been much more anti-coal than President Obama's," he said.
"He is talking very pro-coal now, but if you look at his record when governor ... he does not have a good record with coal. Let me put it this way - he is not practicing what he was preaching," he said.
Obama, meanwhile, has an "all the above" policy regarding energy, explained Strickland. It includes, coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas sources, as well as solar, wind and biofuels.
"The president's position is we use a lot of energy, and we need to produce a lot of energy domestically," he said.