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How Joe Manchin Doomed the Democrats’ Climate Plan

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Washington — First, he killed a plan that would force power plants to clean up climate warming pollution. Then he shattered efforts to help consumers pay for electric cars. And finally, he can’t support government incentives for solar and wind companies, or other provisions that other parties and presidents say are essential to secure a livable planet. Stated.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, Taken more cash for the campaign Becoming a millionaire from the oil and gas industry and from his family’s coal business more than any other senator, he independently blasted the Democratic Party’s legislative plans to combat climate change. In an evenly divided Senate Democratic vote, Manchin led the party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed Thursday night.

“It seems strange that Manchin chooses to be the man who destined humanity with one hand as his legacy,” said Barack Obama, a former senior adviser and founder of the American Progress Center. John Podesta said. tank.

Personally, Senate Democratic staff worked Thursday night for over a year nights and weekends to reduce climate law, reduce, adjust, and adjust water to meet Mr. Manchin’s exact specifications. Later, I saw it and sobbed. Finish line.

Senator Edward J. Marquee, a Democrat in Massachusetts and a longtime supporter of climate law, wrote on Twitter late Thursday that “anger keeps me away from tears.”

Mr Manchin’s refusal to support climate law, along with strong Republican opposition, effectively fate the possibility that Congress will pass a new law to tackle global warming for the foreseeable future. increase. Prevent the average global temperature from exceeding pre-industrial levels by 1.5 ° C.

This is a threshold that greatly increases the likelihood of catastrophic droughts, floods, fires and heat waves. The planet has already warmed the average of about 1.1 degrees Celsius.

A Opinion poll conducted in early May According to the Pew Research Center, 58% of Americans believe the federal government is doing little to reduce the effects of global warming, and 22% say they are doing the right amount. , 18% say it’s too much. In the same survey, 71% said the community had been hit by extreme weather over the past year, with the majority linking it to climate change.

President Biden has promised the world that the United States, which has historically emitted the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, will cut its emissions in half by 2030. Without the law, it would be impossible to meet Mr. Biden. Climate goals.

“We’re not going to reach our goals,” said Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who advised Democrats in Congress on climate law.

“Honestly, I don’t know how he sees his grandson,” she said of Mr Manchin.

Earlier this week, Manchin said his primary concern was the price of the pump and the need for more fossil fuels. “How can I lower the price of gasoline?” He said. “It’s about energy, but you can’t do that unless you produce more. If anyone doesn’t want to produce more fossils, you’re in trouble. That’s just reality. You’re it. Must be done. “

Manchin said in a statement on Wednesday after data showing that the country’s inflation rate was the highest in a year at 9.1%. Grocery stores and gas stations that can’t add more fuel to this inflationary fire. “

Manchin’s spokeswoman Sam Lun-young refused to discuss his position on Thursday night, adding that the senator was “not off the table.” However, those who attended the meeting said they believed they had reached the end of the line.

White House officials did not answer some calls on Thursday night.

For a year and a half, climate activists have called themselves Charlie Brown to Manchin’s Lucy. Several times they approached what many Democrats believed was a deal, but only saw Mr Manchin give up his support in the last moment.

But maybe they should have seen it come.

Manchin once posted a campaign ad to pierce Obama’s climate plan. So when Mr Biden took office, he vowed to enact the most ambitious climate change plan in the country’s history, and he knew that Manchin would be his biggest obstacle.

Mr Biden and Senate Democrats first approached Mr Manchin. West I contacted a colleague in Virginia.

Weiden was responsible for creating a tax deduction of approximately $ 300 billion for the core of climate law: wind and solar producers and consumers, and electric vehicle buyers. Fighting climate change will be the only largest spending by the United States.

Weiden sought Manchin’s opinion to shape the tax package in a way that West Virginia citizens would support it. Manchin mandated: he told Weiden to rewrite the package according to his specifications. As a result, tax credits can also be used to recover and sequester nuclear energy and carbon. This could, in theory, allow power plants that burn coal, oil, or gas to continue operating without climate warming emissions.

The changes were not climate-friendly, but Mr. Weiden agreed with them by saying he believed it would help secure Mr. Manchin’s support.

At the same time, other Democrats have created more ambitious climate regulations for a bill known as Clean Energy Standards. In a personal memo signed with Senator Chuck Schumer in New York last summer, Manchin, the leader of the majority party and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Commission, ensures control of the program’s design. Did.

Then in December, Mr Manchin withdrew completely from the negotiations, saying he couldn’t vote for the overall spending package. The negotiations were dead for months.

Manchin and other Democrats have left the possibility of future transactions based on a $ 300 billion tax credit for renewables and electric vehicles. But Manchin also insisted on cutting spending and including fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil). These demands became more active as winter turned into spring, Russia’s war against Ukraine shook the energy markets, and gas prices soared.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given Manchin huge new bargaining power, as well as record inflation,” said Paul Breadsaw, strategic adviser to the Progressive Policy Institute. It “changed the dynamics,” he said.

Over the past few weeks, Democrats have believed that they are finally approaching an agreement with Mr Manchin on a climate change package. But he still had a request. He wanted to eliminate billions of dollars in electric vehicle tax credits. He wanted to recreate the clean energy tax package he created with Mr. Weiden. Instead of a tax credit that he can recover after the investment, he planned to pay the clean energy developers directly in advance.

Mr. Schumer acknowledged all requests and beyond, staff said. Until Thursday night, majority leaders believed it was possible to trade, according to a climate activist who spoke with Schumer later that night.

The White House also made concessions to Mr. Manchin.

This month, the Interior Ministry proposed the possibility of leasing 11 new offshore oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska — Mr. Biden’s campaign promised to end new drilling in federal waters — Manchin. Mr. Miss. The White House was also considering whether to allow way to other fossil fuel projects like the West Virginia gas pipeline to get Manchin’s vote.

According to some government officials, the government has postponed federal regulations to deal with methane, mercury and other pollutants from oil and gas facilities so as not to offend Mr Manchin during delicate negotiations. .. This is the time lost for two years in the regulatory process and can be time consuming.

Activists said they felt sucked.

“He’s pretending to be a fair arbitrator,” said Jamal Lard, managing director of climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, about Manchin. “He talked about his grandson. It turned out to be all bullshit. He cares about the interests of his coal company and his own political future for the future of our planet. “

Runyon did not respond to Raad’s comments.

The collapse of negotiations with Mr Manchin will occur two weeks after a conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court. Limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate carbon emissions from power plants.. This decision retains the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but forces the closure of coal-fired power plants, which generate the most carbon dioxide, or forces utilities to switch to wind. It thwarted EPA’s attempts to create such broader regulations. Sun and other clean sources from fossil fuels.

The court’s ruling, coupled with parliamentary obstruction, is not enough to meet Mr. Biden’s goals, but still leaves the administration with some steps to reduce climate warming pollution.

The EPA plans to issue stricter regulations to control methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that leaks from oil and gas wells. We are also planning stricter restrictions on other types of pollution generated by power plants, such as mercury, smog and soot. The idea is that cracking down on these pollutants could force utilities to clean or close the dirtiest facilities, such as coal-fired power plants.

Many of the same litigants who succeeded in the Supreme Court’s power plant case are also expected to challenge stricter tailpipe standards, but the government intends to tighten restrictions on vehicle tailpipe emissions.

“We can’t throw towels on Earth, so it’s more important than ever for Biden to use all his powers to fight fiercely for the future,” Podestà said.

Congress could pass a bill to extend tax cuts on wind, solar energy and electric vehicles, which would probably require Republican support.

Stagnation at the federal level has put the spotlight on dozens of states advancing their own climate plans. Leading them is California, which requires that by 2045, 100% of its electricity will come from sources that do not produce carbon dioxide.

Twenty-one other states have several versions of their clean power standards, some advancing even stricter versions of the law. California is also expected to finalize the country’s first regulation requiring all new cars sold in the state to be electric or zero emissions by 2035. The other 17 states will adopt the same rules.

Emily Cochrane Contribution report from Washington DC

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