To Bill McKibben, the climate crisis is “a time-bound emergency that must be tackled full on, right now.” Senator Joe Manchin, on the other hand, is “very, very disturbed” by provisions in the Democrats’ economic plan he believes would eliminate fossil fuels. McKibben is worried that Manchin’s untoward influence may stall important climate action — action that’s needed now.
McKibben helped found 350.org, the first global grassroots climate campaign, and he has organized on every continent for climate action. When McKibben speaks, climate activists listen. Yet Manchin (D-WV), as chair of the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, is preparing to write the climate portion of the budget bill in a way that would keep fossil methane gas flowing to power plants, according to sources with the New York Times.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Manchin’s influence can have long-term effects on the way utilities generate power and on US goals to produce 100% clean electricity by 2035. His sway may be for the health or detriment of the planet.
Manchin is weighing the possibilities for the $3.5-trillion budget bill now before the Senate. His version is widely expected to have less ambitious renewable energy requirements for electric power companies and may even reward utilities that build new power plants designed to burn fossil methane gas (also called “natural gas” due to decades of greenwashing).
Ah, natural gas — the “bridge fuel.” What a bunch of crap.
What Does Climate Week Have to Do with It?
Ranging from a series of workshops and roundtables to protests, Climate Week NYC 2021 tries to motivate people, businesses, and governments to address the climate crisis together. Hosted annually by international non-profit the Climate Group in conjunction with the United Nations, and in partnership with the COP26 and the City of New York, Climate Week NYC 2021 is a global opportunity to come together to accelerate climate action and assess progress ahead of COP26.
It’s an approach that appeals to McKibben, who has said that “working together is what humans are actually built to do.”
The science world has decreed that we must cap global warming at 1.5°C to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change. To have a fighting chance at doing this, the Climate Group argues we must halve global emissions in the next 10 years. “That’s why the 2020s have to be the Climate Decade,” they insist.
McKibben admires the Climate Group’s work but also fears that “the single most dangerous message of the moment is that we have some margin.” He describes the current state of energy as if we were on the edge of a precipice.
Yes, over 300 RE100 companies prodded by the Climate Group have made a commitment to go 100% renewable. That means, to achieve 100% renewable electricity, companies must match 100% of the electricity used across their global operations with electricity produced from renewable sources. These can include biomass (including biogas), geothermal, solar, water, and/or wind — either sourced from the market or self-produced.
But can we wait for business to catch up with science? Recently, 200 medical journals around the world joined together to “call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5°C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.”
The White House version of the climate legislation would reward utility companies “if they increase the amount of clean electricity they supply to customers by 4% a year through 2030.” Manchin’s revision “is likely to lower that requirement to 3% a year or less,” according to the New York Times.
Manchin is not listening to scientists or economists who relate how the US government has failed in its past to address carbon emissions. What he is doing, explains McKibben, is taking the counsel of Nick Akins, the head of American Electric Power, a major electricity provider that relies on West Virginia coal for many of its power plants. Akins has been quoted as saying that Manchin “is supportive of a clean energy future, like we all are.” He added, “But these transitions take time. We can’t cram all that into 8 years.”
Seth Meyers Takes Issue with Various Manchin Excuses
On September 22, Late Night with Seth Meyers included a biting segment about Senator Manchin and his influence on future US climate action.
“Progressives in Congress, including Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, are pushing forward with a transformative $3.5 trillion spending plan that would invest heavily in climate infrastructure amid historic wildfires, droughts, and flooding,” Meyers began. “And now centrists with ties to the fossil fuel industry are trying to water it down.”
Manchin is that centrist under discussion, and he’s called for a “pause” on the budget resolution. It doesn’t matter to Manchin that a paper released last week by the University of Oxford’s Institute for New Economic Thinking concludes that renewable energy is less expensive than continuing on with fossil fuels. Renewables can decarbonize the world within 25 years, leaving those deadly — and expensive — hydrocarbons in the ground. “The Slow Transition is not as cheap as the Fast Transition,” the authors state. “This is because the current high spending on fossil fuels continues for decades, and the savings from renewables are only realized much later.”
Meyers was blunt. (See the 7:46 mark of the video below.) He accused Manchin of being a “powerful ally” of the fossil fuel industry who is “doing their bidding” in Congress. Manchin has taken more money from the fossil-fuel industry than any other Senator. He seems to have on blinders when it comes to the reality that anthropogenic climate change is taking place because humans have been burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and fossil methane gas for way too long.
“How is it acceptable that the guy writing our climate policy personally profits from coal?” Meyers asked. Manchin reportedly owns stock worth between $1 million and $5 million in a coal brokerage firm he founded.
“It’s like if, instead of hiding his gambling, Pete Rose called his bookie from second base,” Meyers smiled.
We must cut emissions in half by 2030 or else explicitly acknowledge we have failed to meet our prescribed targets within the Paris accords. Meyers summed it up. “Climate change is here. It’s having deadly real-world consequences. We need bold action now to stave off the worst effects before it’s too late.”
If only Senator Manchin would listen…