President Joe Manchin is making more cuts to the Build Back Better Program, this week eliminating the renewable energy climate change provisions in order to protect West Virginia coal and gas barons.
The most powerful part of President Biden’s climate agenda — a program to rapidly replace the nation’s coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy — will likely be dropped from the massive budget bill pending in Congress, according to congressional staffers and lobbyists familiar with the matter.
Senator Joe Manchin III, the Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia whose vote is crucial to passage of the bill, has told the White House that he strongly opposes the clean electricity program, according to three of those people. As a result, White House staffers are now rewriting the legislation without that climate provision, and are trying to cobble together a mix of other policies that could also cut emissions.
A White House spokesman, Vedant Patel, declined to comment on the specifics of the bill, saying, “the White House is laser focused on advancing the president’s climate goals and positioning the United States to meet its emission targets in a way that grows domestic industries and good jobs.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, wrote in an email, “Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they’re already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability.”
West Virginia’s other senator, Republican Shelley Moore Capito, said she was “vehemently opposed” to the clean electricity program because it is “designed to ultimately eliminate coal and natural gas from our electricity mix, and would be absolutely devastating for my state.”
The $150 billion clean electricity program was the muscle behind Mr. Biden’s ambitious climate agenda. It would reward utilities that switched from burning fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and penalize those that do not.
Experts have said that the policy over the next decade would drastically reduce the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet and that it would be the strongest climate change policy ever enacted by the United States.
“This is absolutely the most important climate policy in the package,” said Leah Stokes, an expert on climate policy, who has been advising Senate Democrats on how to craft the program. “We fundamentally need it to meet our climate goals. That’s just the reality. And now we can’t. So this is pretty sad.”
The setback also means that President Biden will have a weakened hand when he travels to Glasgow in two weeks for a major United Nations climate change summit. He had hoped to point to the clean electricity program as evidence that the United States, which is historically the largest emitter of planet-warming pollution, was serious about changing course and leading a global effort to fight climate change. Mr. Biden has vowed that the United States will cut its emissions 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The rest of the world remains deeply wary of the country’s commitment to tackling global warming after four years in which former President Donald J. Trump openly mocked the science of climate change and enacted policies that encouraged more drilling and burning of fossil fuels.
President Manchin has spoken, so shall it be. You knew that when he was elected to lead both the Senate and the White House in November, I don't know why anyone thought the Biden plan's death by a thousand Manchin statements was ever going to play out differently.
Don't say you weren't warned.