Biden’s Vision for a Green United States Endangered by Senate Coal Mogul Joe Manchin
Washington – US President Joe Biden has pledged to adopt the toughest environmental policies in the country’s history, but his plans appear dead on arrival thanks to a senator who pocketed a fortune on fossil fuels.
The $ 150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) – a cornerstone of Biden’s vast national program – would reward utilities that switch to renewables and penalize those that don’t.
Experts say the program would reduce most greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, which account for about a quarter of U.S. emissions.
But Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia who heads the Senate Energy Committee, argues that throwing money at companies that are already moving away from fossil fuels is a waste.
âIt doesn’t make sense to me that we take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they’re going to do as the market shifts,â the multi-millionaire told CNN last month.
Under laws originally intended to encourage inter-party cooperation, legislation in the United States typically needs the support of 60 of 100 senators to break out of the starting blocks.
The ruling party can overcome the obstruction of the opposition to pass certain measures, but by a simple majority, through an obscure budget process known as âreconciliationâ.
But even under this system, they rely on a 50-50 vice-presidential tiebreaker in the Senate if there is no opposition support, meaning Manchin has an effective veto. and can block any bill.
The 74-year-old has already emerged as a crucial vote up or down on the landmark âBuild Back Betterâ social protection bill that contains climate provisions.
The stalemate creates a headache for the President as he prepares to travel to Glasgow for a large climate change rally at the end of the month.
Eager to rebuild America’s climate credibility undermined by inertia and denial under Donald Trump, Biden is desperate to have sweeping new global warming measures agreed to in Washington before he presents himself.
The CEPP, along with the clean energy tax credits, would have made up the majority of Biden’s goal of reducing emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030.
The standoff on Capitol Hill while Democrats control Congress and the White House also threatens to undermine the party’s cause ahead of next year’s midterm elections that it knows how to rule.
Manchin has a vested and long-standing interest as a senator from West Virginia, the second largest coal-producing state after Wyoming, according to government data, generating nine-tenths of its electricity from fuel.
His latest public financial disclosure reveals he received nearly half a million dollars in dividends on shares from Enersystems, the coal brokerage firm he founded and which is now run by his son.
But the tariffs for coal-fired electricity have more than doubled in the past decade. While he may have the support of miners and other workers in the traditional energy sector, Manchin is not supported by all West Virginia.
Jim Kotcon, chairman of the Sierra Club’s local conservation committee environmental lobby group, said West Virginia was seeing increasingly severe flooding due to climate change – and soaring utility bills.
“Stop the Pain: Make Investments in the People of West Virginia First … Pass the Build Back Better Bill and Move the West Virginians forward,” he said in a statement.
Manchin’s refusal to support the clean electricity program also sparked a backlash from his fellow Democrats in Washington, with some threatening to overthrow the bill in its entirety.
âHere is the compromise: the climate cannot and will not be cut. No climate, no deal, âMassachusetts Senator Ed Markey said at a recent press event.
Wizards on the West Wing are said to be scrambling to research other legislative ways to achieve climate benefits and keep Democratic support on track.
These could include a carbon tax – in which polluting industries pay a levy for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit – or tax incentives and additional credits for clean energy.
Minnesota Senator Tina Smith, a longtime champion of the clean energy program, described the social spending bill as “our last chance” to take effective action on carbon emissions.
âClean energy tax credits are great, but they can’t do the heavy lifting on their own,â she said.
But for environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, Manchin’s position essentially marks “the end of the line for the foreseeable future” for legislation to end the burning of fossil fuels.
“Either way, the administration will certainly be able to claim that this is the ‘greatest climate legislation ever passed by Congress’,” he said in a weekend blog post. .
“But it will also be a failure.”
Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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