Can Biden Get a Coal State Democrat On Board With His Climate Agenda?


A heat wave is sweeping most of the United States this week, and Temperatures across the west It passed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another reminder of why the President Biden throughout his campaign, he acknowledged the climate crisis as an “existential threat” and why it remained high on his agenda as president.

But as mercury rose last week, Mr. Biden stepped outside the White House and agreed with centrist senators It’s on an infrastructure package that will significantly reduce what is the main tool in tackling climate change.

The $2 trillion American Business Plan, the largest climate-related proposal on the first bill, is nowhere to be found in the compromise proposal.

Mr Biden said he plans to follow up with another bill that will focus on care sector workers and other elements of the “human infrastructure” and is more likely to be passed only by Democratic votes. Climate activists are now pinning their hopes on this law.

“We as the defense community are really focused on the second part, which we think will be more ambitious and bolder on climate issues,” said Elizabeth Gore, vice president of political affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund. interview. “We look to that as our primary focus for our advocacy.”

But there’s no guarantee that future bills will include the kinds of provisions that advocates say are necessary to contain emissions in the energy and transportation sectors. And ultimately, those involved in this act will largely depend on the most conservative Democratic senator, Senator Joe Manchin III from West Virginia. most dependent states about the carbon energy industry and those with close ties to it.

It was Mr. Manchin’s insistence on finding a bipartisan compromise that dashed the White House’s hopes of pushing the American Business Plan through a budget reconciliation process that would have eliminated the need for Republican votes. Now that Mr Manchin and a team of moderate senators have reached a consensus on infrastructure, it is not yet clear whether he will only support an ambitious proposal by Democrats to use fossil fuels.

If he did, he would go against many of the stereotypes he had established as a legislator.

Mr. Manchin swam against the tide of West Virginia’s Republican change in 2010, winning the Senate election in part thanks to a TV ad featuring him. fire at Converted to a copy of President Barack Obama’s cap and swap proposal.

Until then Mr Manchin already made millions From his relationship with the coal brokerage firm Enersystems, which he helped run before entering politics and which continued to pay him dividends thereafter.

When he took office, he often voted to limit the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, but – as a supposed strategic legislator – he rarely had a decisive vote. As a member of the powerful Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which he currently chairs, he has worked to improve energy efficiency in buildings and machinery and supports some investments. clean energy technologies. But it also has highlighted“Fossil fuels are not going anywhere anytime soon,” as he did at a committee hearing this year.

In addition to its long-standing reliance on the coal industry, West Virginia now has an all-Republican congressional delegation with the exception of Mr. Manchin, and the state’s voters are typically immersed in conservative media and speech issues. This year, Americans for Prosperity — political action committee Heavily funded by Charles Koch – Spent a lot of money on advertisements encouraging Mr. Manchin to oppose ending the fiasco. The group also brought protesters to the state capitol in Charleston.

These pressures reflect its history as an ally of the coal industry and other business interestsHelp explain why Mr. Manchin insists on bipartisanship. “I think she is determined to find solutions in this space, but her path needs to reflect her state, its voters, their families and communities in West Virginia,” Ms Gore said.

To that end, Mr Manchin, in his work on the energy committee, said in an interview with the head of the National Wildlife Federation, Collin O’Mara, that he attaches great importance to “reducing emissions through innovation, not eliminating them.”

Mr O’Mara is in constant contact with Mr Manchin on energy and climate-related negotiations, and said he thinks much of Mr Manchin’s hesitation was based on sincere concern for Appalachian workers who were hit hard by the shutdown. statewide coal mines.

“Everything goes back to the West Virginia workers,” Mr. O’Mara said. “Every question – and where it stands in each policy – can be viewed through this rubric. And it’s extremely serious about not letting the people who empowered the past century get behind.”

Mr. Biden entered the presidency promising historic investments in clean energy and green jobs. On Day 1, it pledged to rejoin the Paris climate agreement. Soon after, he promised to halve the United States’ carbon emissions (relative to 2005 levels) over the next nine years. And when it unveiled the American Business Plan, climate advocates hailed its focus on shifting the power grid away from fossil fuels.

But the compromise proposal, which the White House calls the Bilateral Infrastructure Framework, was announced on Thursday. contained only one shadow climate proposals in the American Business Plan.

The bipartisan agreement will invest over $100 billion in roads, bridges and other major projects; $66 billion on train lines; roughly $50 billion in public transport; and $55 billion for water infrastructure. It will also aim to guarantee broadband internet access to all Americans. Yet few of its provisions can directly tackle carbon emissions by amending tax law or establishing national standards.

The deal will not phase out fossil fuel subsidies or establish a federal clean electricity standard, as the American Business Plan suggests. New tax credits for clean energy and billions of dollars in research funding were also excluded from the settlement.

A Manchin spokesperson described the bipartisan agreement as “a pragmatic step towards long-term solutions to climate change, alongside a massive investment in clean energy and the high-quality jobs that go with it.” Spokesperson Sam Runyon highlighted the provisions of the agreement that invest in clean energy innovation and supply chains.

But this afternoon, climate activists organized by the Sunrise Movement Gathered in front of the White House express their dissatisfaction with the compromise bill and make a series of demands.

“Passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill alone is not enough to tackle the climate crisis,” one of the organizers, JP Mejía, interrupted the demonstration in a phone call. “In fact, it brings us closer to the crisis that the Biden administration has promised to drive us away from.”

Mr O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation said the Biden administration would not be “closer” to halving emissions by 2030 without tax credits for clean energy and national clean electricity standards. He said it would be crucial as Democrats work on a follow-up bill.

When he announced the bilateral agreement, Mr. Biden said he would likely have refused to sign into law had it not been accompanied by another bill that had only been passed by the Democrats.

“If that’s all I can think of, I’m not going to sign,” Mr Biden told reporters. “In tandem.” However, he was far from summarizing exactly what he expected to happen in the second proposal – and the climate change debate was almost non-existent at his word.

Mr. Biden’s comments drew the backlash of some centrist Republican senators Those who accepted the compromise offer and were more ambitious only said they felt blinded by what they saw as a natural veto threat in the absence of specific legislation to Democrats. The White House was left to conduct damage control.

On Saturday, after working more than 24 hours on the phones to maintain Republican support, Mr. Biden issued a message. Declaration acknowledging that his comments “created the impression that I was threatening a veto over the plan I had just accepted,” which was certainly not my intention. He urged senators not to tie their support for one bill to the fate of another.

“Our bipartisan agreement does not prevent Republicans from trying to beat my Families Plan; Likewise, they should not object to my selfless efforts to pass the Family Plan and other proposals together,” he wrote. “We will let the American people and Congress decide.”

What this is really likely to be is that Mr Manchin will be in a position to make many decisions, largely because he is willing to say no to the most important Democratic priorities regarding fossil fuels.

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