Prior to Tuesday’s midterm elections, President Joe Biden and powerful West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin got into a verbal altercation about the future of coal in the United States.
The argument began after Biden spoke on the CHIPS and Science Act on Friday in Carlsbad, California. According to the White House, this law, which Biden signed in August, was created to increase semiconductor production in the United States.
In his speech, Biden emphasized how wind and solar energy are now less expensive than coal and oil, citing the example of a Massachusetts coal plant that shut down due to high operating costs and has since shifted to wind energy. (He was probably talking to the Brady Point Power Station, a former coal plant now producing offshore wind cables in Somerset, Massachusetts.)
According to a transcript of Biden’s address released by the White House, no one is constructing new coal plants because they can’t rely on them, even if they have access to all the coal they’ll ever need. Then he included the passage that upset Manchin.
According to Biden, we’ll be closing these plants all over America in favor of wind and solar power.
The next day, Manchin responded with a statement in which he referred to the comments as rude and filthy.
Manchin argued that President Biden’s remarks are not only ridiculous and unrealistic but also ignore the enormous economic suffering that the American people are going through as a result of increased gasoline prices.
“Comments like these are why the American people are losing faith in President Biden and [believing] that he does not comprehend the necessity for an all-encompassing energy policy that will keep our country completely energy independent and secure.
Manchin urged the president to extend an apology to coal miners and continued by saying that Biden had never brought up a proposal to shut down coal plants to him.
The following day, in reaction, White House Press Secretary Kathrine Jean-Pierre hurried to explain Biden’s comments.
The President regrets that anyone who heard his statements yesterday may have found them offensive since they have been misinterpreted to reflect a meaning that was not meant, she said.
The President was making a statement about a technological and economic reality: just as it has been since it first emerged as an energy superpower, America is once again going through an energy transformation.
Jean-Pierre pointed out that next year, oil and gas production will reach all-time highs. She added that Biden was dedicated to an energy transition for the good of everybody.
Since day one, he has pushed the pledge he made to ensure that this transition benefits all Americans in every region of the nation with more employment and more opportunities. She promised that no one would be left behind.
Because both Biden and Manchin are Democrats and the party is aiming to keep control of the Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections but is expected to lose the House, the political timing of the rift is critical, according to Politico. In 2024, Biden and Manchin are both up for reelection; Manchin might be hoping to fight off a right-wing assault.
Climate activists have long criticized Manchin for his connections to the fossil fuel sector. Compared to other US lawmakers, he has received the most funding from fossil fuel and pipeline businesses. He has long been a barrier to the adoption of the Build Back Better Act, which is a key component of Biden’s climate plan.
He did vote in favor of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), but only after winning a separate agreement that would hasten the construction of contentious energy projects like the Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. The agreement, however, has not yet been implemented since it lacked the necessary support to be included in a recent financing bill.
The IPCC has said that coal use must end by 2050 in order to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and prevent the worst effects of the climate problem. Neither the Biden administration nor Manchin has accepted this.
Additionally, the International Energy Agency has stated that no new coal mines, oil and gas fields, or power plants can be built after 2021 in order to attain net zero emissions by 2050. By 2030, the least efficient coal plants should be phased out, and by 2040, the remaining ones should have been upgraded.