Manchin: Biden’s comments on coal are ‘dissociated from reality’

By AAMER MADHANI and MATTHEW DALY
Associated press

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — President Joe Biden was slammed Saturday by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democratic antagonist and ally, for being a “rider” and “divorced from reality” after he vowed to shut down the coal-fired power plants and rely more on wind and solar power in the future.

The powerful coal state lawmaker says Biden’s words ‘ignore the severe economic pain’ for people from rising energy prices and are the reason Americans are ‘losing faith’ in Biden. Manchin’s scathing rebuke to his party leader comes at a precarious time for Democrats in the final campaign weekend before Tuesday’s election that could put Republicans back in power in Congress.

Manchin called for a public apology, and the White House later issued a statement saying that Biden’s words had been “twisted to suggest meaning that was not intended” and that the president “regrets if anyone hears these remarks is offended”.

Biden angered Manchin with his reference to coal power during a Friday speech in Carlsbad, Calif., to highlight his $280 billion plan to boost the semiconductor industry and the Scientific Research.

“I was in Massachusetts about a month ago at the site of America’s largest old coal plant. Guess what? It cost them too much money,” Biden said. new coal plants because he can’t count on it, even though he has all the coal guaranteed for the rest of the plant’s existence. So it’s going to become a wind generation,” Biden added. “We’re going to shut down these plants all over America and have wind and solar power.”

Biden had visited a former coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts in July. The former Brayton Point power station in Somerset is shifting to making offshore wind power, and Biden has chosen it as the embodiment of the clean energy transition he seeks, including in the sweeping law on climate and health which he adopted with the help of Manchin in August.

Former President Donald Trump has promised to revive coal and restore mining jobs, but the industry’s decade-long decline has continued as utilities increasingly turn to cheaper natural gas – and now renewables such as wind and solar power – to generate electricity. The Energy Information Administration, a government agency, reports an annual average of 39,518 employees in U.S. coal mines in 2021, up from 91,611 in 2011, 51,795 in 2016, and 42,159 in 2020. Wyoming leads the coal production.

Manchin, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement that Biden’s remarks were “not only outrageous and out of touch with reality, they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling as a result of rising energy costs”.

Such remarks, Manchin said, “are the reason the American people are losing faith in President Biden. … It seems his positions change daily depending on the audience and the politics of the day.

Manchin, whose support was crucial in Biden winning passage of the Cut Inflation Act, which included the biggest investment in climate programs in US history, criticized Biden for “offensive and disgusting” remarks and said the president owes West Virginia coal workers “immediate treatment and a public apology.”

“Let’s be clear, this is something the President never told me. To be cavalier about coal jobs for the men and women of West Virginia and across the country who are literally putting their lives on the line. to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting,” Manchin said. He added that “it’s time he learned a lesson that his words matter and have consequences.”

The White House said Biden was “commenting on an economic and technological fact” as the country embarks on an “energy transition” that he is working to ensure means “more jobs and better opportunities.” … No one will be left behind.

The EIA predicts that coal generation is expected to increase from 22.5% of US electricity in 2021 to 21.1% in 2022, before falling to 19.9% ​​in 2023 – the same share of coal generation as in 2020, when production hit its lowest level in decades, in part due to COVID-19. Natural gas is expected to offset some of the decline in coal’s share in 2022 and beyond. Coal generated more than 40% of electricity in the United States in 2011 before a sharp decline caused by the hydraulic fracturing boom.

In late 2021, Manchin torpedoed Biden’s big domestic policy bill, prompting a tough response from the White House to a lawmaker whose vote is crucial in the Senate 50-50. Biden’s press secretary called Manchin’s opposition, first announced on a news program on Sunday, a “sudden and inexplicable reversal of his position” and a “breach of his commitments” to Biden and congressional Democrats.

Then, last summer, Manchin suddenly reversed course and backed a revised bill that became law with only Democratic votes.

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Daly reported from Washington.

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