Sen. Joe Manchin has made clear that there is no way will he cast his crucial vote for the Democrats’ reconciliation bill if it includes the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), the most powerful part of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda. Thus does the senior senator from West Virginia display his true colors to anyone who was still confused about them.
CEPP would provide $150 billion to reward utilities that accelerate the replacement of the nation’s coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar, and nuclear energy in order to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in the power sector by 2035. Without Manchin on board, White House staff and senior Democrats seem to have surrendered in the matter and are searching for ways to put together other programs to cut emissions. Without passage of a bill containing aggressive programs, Biden’s team is going to have a devil of a time in Glasgow at the climate summit persuading China, India, and Brazil that he can even deliver the U.S. pledges on emissions cuts, much less that their nations should do better than they are.
Here’s Coral Davenport at The New York Times:
A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, wrote in an email, “Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
I can’t read minds, so I won’t claim to know what is truly in Manchin’s heart in this matter. What I do know is that anyone who truly accepts what scientists are saying about the climate crisis—anyone who actually backs “efforts to combat climate change”—would not use the political clout of his high office to cripple policies to prevent, mitigate, and adapt to the dire impacts of changes being projected for our future.
It’s actually easier to respect a numbskull like Sen. James “Snowball” Inhofe, who wrote an entire book calling climate change a hoax and seems to truly believe it, than Manchin, who pretends he’s down with the science even as his bank account gets ever fatter feeding off the teat of the fossil fuel industry. An industry that, in case anyone has forgotten, spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting climate denial disinformation. Manchin and his family have thrived thanks to profiteers who created climate change doubt by gaslighting the populace, smearing scientists, attacking activists, and, of course, pouring gobs of campaign money into the pockets of compliant politicians in both parties.
There’s a chance we’ll still see passage of a reconciliation bill with a few crumbs on climate. But quite possibly not. As Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota told The Times, “We must have strong climate action in the Build Back Better budget. I’m open to all approaches, but as I’ve said, I will not support a budget deal that does not get us where we need to go on climate action. There are 50 Democratic senators and it’s going to take every one of our votes to get this budget passed.”
Even if a bill with some climate elements in it does pass, without the CEPP, that cut will have far-reaching consequences beyond the power sector. While it contributes 25% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector contributes 29%. Cutting that to zero requires a switchover from internal combustion vehicles to green-sourced electric power. Otherwise, much of the reduced carbon pollution from the operation of EVs will be undermined by the continuing operation of power plants burning fossil fuels to charge up those vehicles.
Then there’s the humiliation of showing up in Glasgow with a lot more words than actions. Not the strongest negotiating posture.
If Joe Manchin really were serious about combatting the climate crisis, he would say okay to the CEPP, but only on the condition that the reconciliation bill’s already hefty investment in coal communities be doubled. But no.
This week <a href=”http://” target=”_blank” title=””>more than 650 protesters, many of them Indigenous, were arrested in Washington for civil disobedience in protest of foot-dragging in Congress on climate change. In the words of a 90-year-old song written by Florence Reece in support of coal strikers in Harlan County, Kentucky, the protesters asked a question for those within earshot: “Which side are you on?”
Joe Manchin has shown us which side he is on. And that puts us, and generations to come, in peril.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.