Biden's Climate Action Plan Struggles With Senator Manchin
It is a known fact that climate change is one of the most robust issues that countries have to tackle with legislation. In the United States, sectioning parts of the annual budget and branches of the executive government off to brainstorm and act to subvert global climate warming is not a new idea, but the current president, Joe Biden, ran his campaign with the promise that he would structure his approach to the world crisis with the most aggressive strategy to reach a more carbon-neutral country. Notably, he approached the issue of climate change during his campaign trail with a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that places $1.7 trillion in investments in green energy over the next ten years, pledges to half carbon emissions by 2030, and shifts from former president Donald Trump’s tax incentives that were largely geared towards protecting the needs of corporations that were deep into the coal and fossil fuel industries.
In former President Trump’s plan, there were greater chances for power plants to remain open, a policy that the United States Environmental Protection Agency was not fond of. By contrast, President Biden came into office with an ambitious plan to shape his approach to the climate crisis around an overhaul of energy of the past. However, President Biden and the Democrats in the national government have an interesting voice in Congress shaping the newest version of legislation, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV).
One of the most important climate change tools that the United States has is the annual Budget Bill that, as the Biden environmental plan currently stands, would give $150 billion to replace coal and gas power plants with cleaner sources of energy like wind, solar and nuclear. With Sen. Manchin as the new ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, this number is likely to change significantly because of the struggle to get votes for provisions like taxes in Congress.
Sen. Manchin’s vote is extremely crucial to President Biden’s climate agenda as he is now the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In this position, he sets the tone of the committee’s meetings and maintains decorum during the time where they meet. Additionally, the chair decides what bills are brought to the attention of the committee, and in the case of the 2021 Congressional makeup, Sen. Manchin is a crucial swing vote. As a conservative-leaning Democrat, his policies and his constituents are largely working-class individuals connected to the coal industry. Furthermore, he is known to be an “aisle crosser” who has connections with both people in his party and in the Republican Party.
Personally, Sen. Manchin has a heavy interest in the energy industry that he is supposedly fighting against. According to Opensecrets.com, Joe Manchin has been backed by big oil and coal for years. Additionally, he was the top recipient of donations from coal mining, oil, and gas industries in the 2021-2022 election cycle. Furthermore, it may be difficult for citizens to reconcile Manchin’s personal profits off of the industries he invests in as he has stock valued between 1-5 million in Enersystems Inc., which is a coal brokerage firm that he helped found in 1988.
Joseph Aldy, a Harvard professor that helped draft President Obama’s climate action bill, told the New York Times, “It says something fascinating about our politics that we’re going to have a representative of fossil fuel interests crafting the policy that reduces our emissions from fossil fuels.”
There is a strong pull in two directions with President Biden and many of the Democratic Congress members pushing for the most radical climate bill of all time amidst pushback from moderate Democrats. With this extreme scenario playing out daily on the Congress floor, one can expect the tension will continue between the two factions in key upcoming climate legislation.