It’s easy to see Sen. Joe Manchin as a feckless boob. A man who places his personal interests far above those of the nation. Someone whose thinking on any topic is thinner than the rainbow oil-smear on the top of a puddle in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. That guy who would chase a buck even if it meant walking on the faces of babies.
Well, an inside look at how Manchin trashed any chance at reasonable legislation to address climate change, compiled by The New York Times, shows that every one of these presumptions is definitively correct. And then some.
For months, as the administration and other Democrats in the Senate tried to bargain in good faith, Manchin “led his party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed on Thursday night, a yearlong wild goose chase.” In the process, Manchin destroyed plans to fund support for renewable energy, derailed efforts to help consumers buy electric cars, and ended any chance that the United States would take significant action to address the greatest essential threat facing the nation … all while raking in record cash from oil and gas companies and continuing to pocket the money from his highly suspect dirty coal deal.
John Podesta, former aide to President Barack Obama, put it this way: “It seems odd that Manchin would chose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity.”
But the truth is simply this: Manchin is being paid to destroy humanity. Anything, anything, anything else he says is simply filler. He is collecting that check, and nothing else matters to him.
“I honestly don’t know how he is going to look his own grandchildren in the eyes,” said Leah Stokes, a professor of environmental policy who has worked with Democrats in negotiating with Manchin.
The answer, so far as Manchin is concerned, is simply this: f**k grandchildren. Do grandchildren pay $500,000 a year for a do-nothing coal contract that is unlike anything held by anyone else in the nation? Did grandchildren shell out just under a million this year the way oil and gas did this year? If grandchildren are so concerned about having air to breathe and maybe not being trapped in an unstable hellscape as civilization collapses under the weight of billions of climate refugees and a crumbling ecosystem … then where is their super PAC?
For more than a year, Democratic senators, staffers, advisers, and members of the White House team have tried everything to collect Manchin’s critical vote. Endless hours have been devoted to “scale back, water down, trim and tailor the climate legislation to Mr. Manchin’s exact specifications.” But Manchin, not shockingly, isn’t actually interested in signing on, because he never was.
Democrats created a plan called the “Clean Energy Standard” that would have helped utilities replace coal and gas with renewable fuels, worked to keep costs low for consumers, and provided funding for both coal miners and workers in oil and gas. At every step of the way, Manchin was consulted and the plan was modified to fit his demands. Until his demand became simply to make it go away. So the whole thing was scrapped.
Sen. Ron Wyden, who drafted the core components of the climate bill, worked with Manchin almost every day, altering the package to fit what Manchin said he needed. Rewriting the whole package to Manchin’s specifications, giving Manchin’s coal-mining buddies billions to support unproven systems of carbon capture. Wyden knew that the changes Manchin was making weakened the legislation’s ability to reach the necessary targets, but he campaigned for it anyway, telling other senators that the changes were necessary to gain Manchin’s support.
The White House bent over beyond backwards to support Manchin, pulling the plug on some of the core components of President Joe Biden’s own energy plan and substituting a list of demands from Manchin. Biden even went back on his own word when it came to extending more offshore oil and gas leases and leases on public land, because that was Manchin’s supposed price for going along. Biden slow-walked a suite of regulations to address methane leaks, toxic components of coal waste, and issues with fracking, a move that made many supporters feel as if they had been betrayed.
Manchin didn’t even bother with a thank you. Because he was never negotiating in good faith. He was stalling for his masters.
“He has pretended to be a fair arbiter,” Jamal Raad, executive director of the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, said of Mr. Manchin. “He talked about his grandchildren. It turns out that’s all bullshit. He cares about profits for his coal company and his own political future over the future of our planet.”
It doesn’t matter that every aspect of the proposed legislation has broad public support. It doesn’t matter that without this legislation it will be impossible for the United States to come even close to the goals it has already pledged. Manchin doesn’t care about those things. In fact, he’s perfectly willing to talk about the things he does care about.
“How do we bring down the price of gasoline?” said Manchin. “From the energy thing, but you can’t do it unless you produce more. If there’s people that don’t want to produce more fossil, then you got a problem. That’s just reality. You got to do it.”
Energy prices, like all other prices, are a matter of supply and demand. They can be addressed by increasing supply or by cutting demand. But only one of these options puts more money in the pocket of fossil fuel companies, who slide some of that money to Manchin. So guess which one Manchin treats as the only option.
However, it’s not as if Manchin doesn’t have some allies in this fight. The real reason that gas prices at the pump are up is that Russia conducted an illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine for the glory of Vladimir Putin. That resulted in an effort to close Russian oil out of the world market and created a temporary shortage. Oil is a global commodity. A shortage anywhere is a shortage everywhere. Prices of oil in the United States have absolutely zero to do with any policy of President Biden, or anyone else.
That didn’t stop Manchin from claiming that increasing oil prices were a reason to throw out the whole deal. According to those involved in the negotiation, Putin’s invasions gave Manchin “a huge new bargaining authority.” With prices at the pump going up, Manchin could scorn any thought of doing anything other than drilling, pumping, and burning the planet to a happy cinder.
In all those months of negotiation, did anyone try just paying Joe Manchin? Because the only green he cares about is on the back of bills.