Joe Manchin is the coal man with the fate of the world in his hands

While a stimulus package and infrastructure measure, Build Back Better is also the largest climate bill in US history: US$555 billion ($770 billion). dollars) are planned for renewable energy and clean transportation incentives over a decade. These commitments are essential for the United States to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Hare, who has spent a career on the climate front lines as an IPCC adviser and lead author and chief executive of the Climate Analytics advisory group, points out that the US target is not just important for the amount of pollution that would warm he would prevent heaven, but for his diplomatic clout.


The international mechanism to combat climate change is based on consensus. It’s only real fuel is peer pressure. When heads of state and government gather at gatherings such as the recent Conference of the Parties to the Paris Climate Agreement in Glasgow, they may be informed by scientists, but their common language is political pain.

The system works – insofar as it works – when countries make mutually reinforcing commitments to reduce emissions. It crashes when some refuse. (This point, more than just the tonnage of Australian greenhouse gas emissions, is the real cause of our doom on the global climate stage.)

To put it bluntly, if Manchin blocks Build Back Better, he allows China and India to slow down their emissions reduction efforts, says Hare.

Before Christmas, Manchin appeared on Fox News to say he couldn’t support BBB as written, prompting a writer for the Atlantic magazine to argue, “If this decision stands, then Manchin has all but sealed the fate of the planet: the world is almost guaranteed to warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial temperature by 2040.”

Whether that’s the case or not, Hare sees precedent for West Virginia coal interests hampering global climate efforts.

In 1997, Congress passed what is known as the Byrd-Hagel resolution, preventing the United States from supporting the Kyoto Protocol. The late Robert Byrd was a hotheaded ex-Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan who served as a Democratic senator from West Virginia for 51 years.

Hare believes the resolution, which passed unanimously, allowed countries like India and Australia to refuse to back Kyoto and ultimately contributed to the collapse of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009. .

It cost the world a decade of climate action, he argues.

Manchin has long taken a more conservative path than his Democratic peers, a trend accepted by the party because it reflects the political culture of West Virginia, where he served as governor from 2005 before winning a Senate seat in 2010.

But patience has worn thin with Manchin’s filibuster since President Biden defeated Donald Trump in 2020 without a clear Senate majority, only to see his agenda stall.

Today, even the coal unions that once backed Manchin’s dedicated support for their industry have lost faith.

“We urge Senator Manchin to reconsider his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families and their communities,” he said. declared United Mine Workers of America. International President Cecil Roberts, a longtime Manchin ally, in a statement four days before Christmas.

The union supports BBB for the various measures it includes to support new formations and new industries in the coalfields.

So far, Manchin remains unmoved, and his stance has drawn heavy criticism from some Democrats and observers.

Stifling progress: US President Joe Biden (center) with Joe Manchin (right). Manchin has long taken a more conservative path than his Democratic peers, but patience is running out even within the coal union.Credit:PA

Where once Manchin’s support for the coal industry was seen as political expediency, some now see it as personal.

Many, including those cited in excoriating rolling stone profile, noted that Manchin’s immense family fortune comes not from working in the mines but from trading in energy produced by burning the dirtiest form of fuel used in the region, a waste coal known as “gobble”.

“The people of West Virginia have paid millions of dollars every year in higher electricity costs to keep running a dirty, inefficient power plant that sickens and kills people with dirty air, but who generously pays the Manchin family”, rolling stone reported.

Whether or not you accept their position, Mann and Hare agree that Manchin is slowing US and global climate action while scientists agree there is no time to waste.

Australian Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie takes a broader view.


“There’s no denying that Biden’s Build Back Better policy would make a massive difference for climate action, as would the conclusion of the Paris Agreement and the last US election that preceded it,” she says. “But is this the one and only answer to the challenge that awaits us? No. The global momentum is going in the right direction, it just needs to go much faster.

Either way, the climate world is watching Manchin this month as Biden struggles to break deadlocks. Many in the Democratic Party would like to see the West Virginiars armed to pass the entire bill, including the social spending initiatives that Manchin remains steadfastly opposed to.

Others hope Biden will split the bill separating climate initiatives from the larger package in hopes Manchin can support them.

If he does, it will not sit well with his allies in industry, who are determined to survive in a world that is turning against him.

“It’s coal,” Hare said in a dark, pragmatic tone. “That’s what coal does.”

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