Manchin is screwing over his state’s voters — Common Sense and Politics
COMMON SENSE SAYS: The people in West Virginia are going to suffer so Manchin can make money off his coal-burning plants. One has to wonder how the hell he ever got re-elected.
( NY Times) Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia — whose vote is essential given scorched-earth Republican opposition to anything Biden might propose — is reportedly against the Clean Energy Payment Program, the core of Biden’s attempt to take action on climate change, and wants to impose work requirements on the child tax credit, a key element in plans to invest in the nation’s children.
You might be tempted to view this impasse as an indictment of America’s wildly unrepresentative political system, which effectively allows the interests of a small state — West Virginia has substantially fewer residents than the borough of Brooklyn — to dominate national concerns.
…But climate change is bringing more severe weather in general, including more heavy rain — and West Virginia turns out to be extremely vulnerable to flooding, in part because of the damage done by past coal mining.
…The answer is that coal is far less important to the state than it used to be, and its significance is doomed to dwindle no matter what we do about climate change.
…Back in 1982, when Joe Manchin began his political career as a member of the State Legislature, wages and benefits paid to coal miners accounted for 16 percent of the state’s total labor income.
…Oh, and the small industry that remains is on its way out, whether or not we get an effective climate policy; given dramatic technological progress in renewable energy, coal just isn’t competitive anymore.
…In addition to blocking climate action, Manchin seems determined to cut back aid to children, in particular by imposing a work requirement for the child tax credit.
… What’s really striking, however, is to hear these demands coming from a senator who’s supposed to be representing West Virginia — a poor state that has far more to gain from expanded aid to children than wealthier parts of the country.
In particular, making child allowances contingent on parents finding work, while a bad idea in general, is an especially bad idea for a state like West Virginia, where jobs are hard to find.
…But given that they exist, it’s sheer cruelty to refuse to help children unless their parents take jobs that may not exist — and the cruelty is most intense in a troubled state like West Virginia.
But coal has become more expensive than renewables or natural gas, the prices of which have fallen rapidly, and in West Virginia, the ratepayers are footing the bill. With three of the state’s major coal-fired power plants in need of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mandatory upgrades, costs for ratepayers will continue to go up.
…As chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin now presides over Congress’s key provision to address the climate crisis: the clean electricity program, which would incentivize utilities to switch to low-carbon forms of energy like wind, solar or nuclear.
…AEP’s three coal-fired power plants in West Virginia — John Amos, Mountaineer, and Mitchell — are in need of $448 million worth of mandatory upgrades in order to remain federally compliant, causing electricity rates to increase by 3.3% starting in September 2022, according to Tammy Ridout, a spokesperson for AEP.
…As the New York Times reported last year, Pennsylvania and Ohio sharply reduced their coal use in recent years, becoming more reliant on natural gas and nuclear power, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
“These plants, even if they’re kept open, are going to be operating at such a low level there will be far fewer jobs and far less coal consumed than it is now,”.
…Coal-fired power plants, meanwhile, directly employ a little more than 2,000 people, according to a report by researchers at West Virginia University’s John Chambers College of Business & Economics.
…”What we’re being asked to do is to shut down our coal power plants, fire our employees, and go out of the coal mining business, and I guess we’ll be promised to make solar panels.
…Karen Skelton, a Department of Energy senior adviser, recently had a call with Manchin’s staff about a report from West Virginia University’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development that showed investing in renewables would cost the state $855 million less through 2040 than continuing to invest in coal.
The call was arranged “to get that exposure in front of Manchin’s staff, trying to get them to look at the numbers,” said James Van Nostrand, the director of West Virginia University Law School’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, who worked on the report and was on the call.
…At a recent virtual event hosted by Gayle Manchin, the senator’s wife and a federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm emphasized the clean energy program’s allowance for carbon capture, a technology that seeks to filter out the carbon dioxide from plants’ emissions, before it enters the atmosphere.
…”A program of this magnitude, if enacted into law, will adversely impact the reliability and resilience of the electric grid” unless things like energy storage are also passed, Kavanaugh wrote on September 13.
Originally published at https://commonsenseandpolitics.com on October 19, 2021.