Manville, New Jersey, NBC News New York video screenshot

Sen. Joe Manchin (D? West Virginia) said on CNN Sunday he's opposed to a central part of his party's plan to transition the US to a green energy economy, because he figures the energy market will get us there sooner or later anyway anyhow. On CNN's "State of the Union," Manchin told host Dana Bash that he's not going to support the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation bill unless its overall price tag comes down, although he refused to say how much spending he would support. Manchin also said that while he supports higher taxes on the rich and on corporations, that level of taxation can't be so high that it leaves all the rich corporations so sad that they can no longer find any joy in creating jobs, either. He said "globally competitive" a lot.

For the most part, it was typical Manchin: No, I don't like all this spending, what about the deficit and inflation, let's just put the president's agenda on hold for a while and see how the economy does, and so on. While he was at it, Manchin also said for the first time that he opposes spending aimed at speeding America's transition toward clean electric generation.

This is because Manchin can't be happy with being an obstructive prick in general; he has to be an obstructive prick about slowing down the move away from a fossil fuel economy. We suspect the man may actually be composed of 30 percent coal. (But there's no way to know, since his coal company is in a "blind trust." For all we and he know, it's a llama farm now!)


Specifically, Manchin told Bash he opposes the House's proposal to spend some $150 billion to speed up the transition to clean power generation by rewarding utilities that increase their production of electricity with renewable sources, and punishing those that don't. It's called the "Clean Electricity Performance Program," and you can read more about the details in this Reuters summary.

Manchin told Bash he just doesn't see the point in spending money to get America off the fossil fuel teat, since after all our overall energy production portfolio is very very slowly getting there through the magic of the free market anyway:

Let me tell you this. Let's look at what we have done for the last 20 years. In 20 — in 2000, the year 2000, 52 percent of our electricity came from coal. Only about 16 percent came from natural gas, and only about 9.5 percent came from renewables, 20 years to date, OK?

2020, 19 percent from coal, 40 percent from natural gas, and up to 20 percent for renewables. The transition is happening. Now they're wanting to pay companies to do what they're already doing. Makes no sense to me at all for us to take billions of dollars and pay utilities for what they're going to do as the market transitions.

Manchin insisted that since we'll get there eventually — he didn't suggest any kind of timeline — then any effort to speed up the transition to clean energy "makes no sense at all."

Instead of pointing out to Manchin that it makes a hell of a lot of sense, since the only way to prevent the very worst effects of global warning is to eliminate fossil fuels as quickly as possible worldwide, Bash instead went for a cheap attempt at a gotcha, noting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Twitter criticism that Manchin "has weekly huddles with Exxon and is one of many senators who gives lobbyists their pen to write so-called bipartisan fossil fuels bills."

It's a valid enough complaint, although Bash didn't mention the ExxonMobil lobbyist who bragged about his weekly phone calls with Manchin's office in a video. But instead of getting at the point of why the transition to clean energy is absolutely necessary to stave off catastrophic warming, Bash sent the conversation veering off into an unproductive attempt to get Manchin to admit he's in the pocket of energy interests.

Well of course he's in the pocket of oil and coal, he is the pocket! Regardless, we really need to talk about why we can't wait on market forces to get us to decarbonization, if they ever do.

Later in the program, Bash spoke with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said he's not at all willing to agree to significant reductions in the Build Back Better plan, largely because the $3.5 trillion plan was already a huge compromise from the roughly $6 trillion target the White House and Senate progressives wanted. More importantly, Sanders got right to the point of why we do indeed need to accelerate the shift to a clean energy economy: "The scientists will tell us that we got a few years left before there will be irreparable, irreversible harm to our planet if we do not address climate change."

And again, let's point out that's exactly what the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said yet again in its most recent report: We can fix this, but time is running out.

The canary in our coal mine keeps chirping, so it might be a good idea to listen to it before we all keel over. Perhaps someone can make that make sense to Joe Manchin, finally.

Update: Looks like Joe Biden himself will get the chance to have a word with Manchin and Sen Kyrsten Sinema today about the importance of doing this right. May arms be twisted and harmony be achieved.

[The Hill / CNN / Reuters / United Nations / IPCC / Vox]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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