John Edwards talks up energy policy

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. — Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Monday said a proposed coal-fired power plant shouldn't be built in northeastern South Carolina, continuing his call for a ban on those facilities.

"My view is that needs to stop," Edwards said of the $1 billion, 600-megawatt plant set to be built along the Pee Dee River in this early voting state. Santee Cooper officials are awaiting a final permit from state environmental regulators.

The utility's officials say they need the plant to meet energy demands, and can't wait for newer or cleaner energy to be developed, but have said the plant will be environmentally responsible. They hope to have it running about 2012.

Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, told about 150 people at a campus of Coastal Carolina University that coal-fired plants are "taking a bad situation and making it worse."

He also said he was opposed to new nuclear power plants and that the U.S. has no credibility in global warming discussions. "We are the worst polluter on the planet," Edwards said.

He took a swipe at rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying the New York senator takes more money from power industry interests than any other presidential candidate.

"We have to have a president willing to stand up to the oil and gas industry," Edwards said.

Despite poll numbers that show him consistently in third place in South Carolina, Edwards has contended he can win over voters when people hear his message.

"That was the reason we extended the tour here because we were getting such a positive response," Edwards told reporters after the town hall meeting.

A CBS News poll last month showed Edwards with just 13 percent of the vote compared with Barack Obama's 35 percent and Clinton's 34 percent. Edwards, a South Carolina native, won the 2004 Democratic primary win here and hopes to repeat that victory Jan. 26.

His focus on reducing pollution won over at least one undecided voter Monday.

"I liked what he had to say, particularly about environmental issues," said Suzer Sachs, 59, of Myrtle Beach, who came to the town hall meeting at a friend's invitation. "He addressed them more seriously than other candidates."