Once again, the name Joe Manchin is on the lips of every person who gives a fig for salvaging the ongoing, deepening climate crisis. Once again, a senator with monstrous conflicts of interest regarding his own coal fortune has thrown soot and ash into the gears of progress. It seems entirely apparent that the man has no intention of letting any meaningful climate legislation see the light of day. It’s time to make it clear that his blockading actions are, in many ways, equivalent to murder. We must say as much, and call out the perpetrator: Manchin, Manchin, Manchin.
This week, Manchin delivered a crushing one-two punch that should at least serve to end any doubts regarding his intentions. Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s eminently qualified nominee to the Federal Reserve Board, has removed herself from consideration after Manchin announced he would not vote to confirm her. He accounted for his decision by saying Raskin’s climate beliefs have been “politicized,” which is Manchin-speak for “She thinks climate change is a threat to humanity and may act on that belief in her official capacity.” Can’t have that.
In a seething letter to Biden withdrawing herself from consideration, Raskin wrote, “It was — and is — my considered view that the perils of climate change must be added to the list of serious risks that the Federal Reserve considers as it works to ensure the stability and resiliency of our economy and financial system.” Every Senate Republican was set to vote against her final nomination, so Biden needed the entire Senate Democratic Caucus to hold the line. All of them did, except Manchin, and the absence of his support was a death knell for Raskin’s nomination.
Manchin, Manchin, Manchin.
All of this, and the senator’s merciless work was still only half done. This time, however, he abandoned all pretense and went fully into nonsense mode. At an energy conference late last week, amid a surging interest in electric-powered cars thanks to the spike in gas prices, he coughed up a nugget of balderdash so dense it had its own gravity.
“I’m very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles,” Manchin told the assembled. “I’m old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas — I remember those days. I don’t want to have to be standing in line waiting for a battery for my vehicle, because we’re now dependent on a foreign supply chain, mostly China…. I’ve read history, and I remember Henry Ford inventing the Model-T, but I sure as hell don’t remember the US government building filling stations. The market did that.”
Ah bah wha huh? The supply chain doesn’t affect internal combustion cars and the batteries they also need? The market did what, now? I think he meant to say “President Eisenhower and his massive plan to construct a transcontinental federal highway system did that.” Absent that wildly successful government program, the filling stations Manchin credits the market for creating would be squatting in the creosote bushes somewhere outside Barstow, on the edge of the desert, waiting for the drugs to take hold. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is a one-word sign Manchin is holding up to the White House, a masterpiece of simplicity: “NOPE.”
It has been wisely said that one may know a person by the company they keep. In the case of Manchin, that “conference” where he garblewarbled through his disdain for clean-running cars is telling. The annual event he spoke at was called CERAWeek, sponsored by S&P Global. The conference’s mission statement reads, “Now in its 40th year, CERAWeek is widely considered to be the most prestigious annual gathering of CEOs and Ministers from global energy and utilities, as well as automotive, manufacturing, policy and financial communities, along with a growing presence of tech.”
Among the speakers who joined Manchin on the CERAWeek stage were CEOs and other high-ranking officials from Saudi Aramco, ExxonMobil, PG&E, ConocoPhillips, the Carlyle Group, Edison, Shell, Chevron, several U.S. senators and executive cabinet members, oh, right, and the secretary-general of OPEC. That audience lapped up what he was peddling like cats into the cream.
Those are his people. Not you, not me, and certainly not Earth herself. There is no longer even the meanest shadow of a chance he can be persuaded to relent on his anti-climate crusade; at CERAWeek, Manchin was newly bathed in the blood of the lamb (oil, that is), and promptly hit the kill switch on one of Biden’s climate-concerned nominees. There is no mystery to it any longer, if there ever was to begin with.
Manchin, Manchin, Manchin.
Joe Manchin, with the help of inscrutable vandals like Kyrsten Sinema, spent all of last year laboring to dismember President Biden’s two signature pieces of legislation: the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act. Both had substantial funding for climate action until Manchin got hold of them. He didn’t like the cost, no, it’s the deficit, no, it’s not bipartisan enough, no, no, no, no and furthermore no.
Over and over, the Congressional Progressive Caucus attempted to come up with novel ways to appease his “concerns,” only to have him move the goal posts once again. In the end, the infrastructure bill passed with only a fraction of its climate policies intact, and the Build Back Better Act hovers half-baked in congressional rewrite purgatory — although signs are afoot that it may soon reemerge with a new name.
Now, the Raskin nomination is smashed, and by equating electric cars to the gas lines of the 1970s, Manchin has made it abundantly clear that none of this climate shit is getting past him while he’s the goalie.
It’s time to set sights on the goalie.
Make him and his fathomless intransigence a top political issue. Staple it to his forehead every time a California town burns to the ground or a Missouri hamlet becomes so much detritus flowing downstream on the latest Mississippi River flood tide. When the farms fail and the peaks of the Sierras are bare of snow, say the name again and again: Manchin, Manchin, goddamn Manchin.
The senator from West Virginia must have his reckoning.