Journalist maps out Joe Manchin’s unwavering devotion to fossil fuels — especially coal

Journalist maps out Joe Manchin’s unwavering devotion to fossil fuels — especially coal

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — a centrist Democrat in a state that former President Donald Trump won by 39% in 2020 — has been an ardent defender of fossil fuels, which have brought him millions of dollars. Manchin’s devotion to fossil fuels, including coal, has been evident not only in his business dealings, but also, in his voting record in the U.S. Senate. And journalist Chris McGreal, reporting from Fairmont, West Virginia, takes a look at Manchin’s pro-fossil fuels record in an article published by The Guardian on May 31.

“For years, Manchin has justified voting against curbs on the burning of fossil fuels and other measures to tackle the climate crisis on the grounds that they were bad for West Virginia, with its economy and culture rooted in coal mining,” McGreal explains. “Last year, he used his vote in a hung U.S. Senate to block President Biden’s $3.5tn economic plan in part because he said he was ‘very, very disturbed’ that its climate provisions would kill the coal industry.”

Manchin, McGreal notes, earned “nearly half a million dollars” from his company, Enersystems, in 2020 and $5.6 million “over the previous decade.”

Christopher Regan, former vice chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, told The Guardian, “What’s he doing? Is this for West Virginia? Or is this just strictly for his own narrow pecuniary interest?”

McGreal points out that Manchin has promoted a type of coal that creates even more pollution than regular coal.

“Manchin founded Enersystems in 1988 with his brother, Roch, at about the time the state was considering an application to build a power plant in Grant Town, a small former mining community less than 20 minutes drive north of Fairmont,” McGreal observes. “Manchin, then a state senator, helped clear the way for the construction of the power plant while negotiating a deal to become the only supplier of its fuel — not just any fuel, but discarded coal known as ‘garbage of bituminous,’ more popularly called ‘gob,’ that is even more polluting than regular coal.”

Manchin’s voting record, including his hostility to green energy, has drawn plenty of criticism from liberals and progressives in his party. Nonetheless, McGreal points out that the West Virginia Democrat is relatively popular in his state, especially among Republican voters. A Morning Consult poll released in late April found that Manchin enjoys 57% approval in West Virginia; that number increases to 69% among Republicans.

Greg Thomas, a GOP operative in West Virginia, told The Guardian, “No one here cares about environmentalists protesting Joe Manchin’s personal financial holding. It’s gotten to the point where it’s like, who cares if he does? We assume they’re all corrupt…. His popularity in West Virginia is coming back after it dropped over his fights with Trump. Pushing back against (President Joe) Biden has helped. His position on energy issues has been big.”

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