The biggest news this week coming out of the climate movement is that Joe Machin declared on Sunday that he will not vote to pass the Build Back Better bill in the senate. Yes, indeed, that same bill that he already demanded be watered down and de-fanged of several of its climate provisions, yet it would have been the first major piece of climate legislation passed in the US in the last 30 years and the largest investment in climate policies ever. It is a piece of legislation we desperately need as a country (and a planet), as we experience more and more extreme weather events like the tornadoes in Kentucky and surrounding states this past week and rising inequality. So, why on Earth is Joe Manchin unwilling to pass it??!! (And for that matter, all of the Republicans in the Senate?!)
In a statement released on Sunday, Manchin said the following:
“My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face. I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful to every hard-working American at the gasoline pumps, grocery stores and utility bills with no end in sight…If enacted, the bill will also risk the reliability of our electric grid and increase our dependence on foreign supply chains. The energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway in the United States of America. In the last two years, as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and with bipartisan support, we have invested billions of dollars into clean energy technologies so we can continue to lead the world in reducing emissions through innovation. But to do so at a rate that is faster than technology or the markets allow will have catastrophic consequences for the American people like we have seen in both Texas and California in the last two years.”
Oof. Deeply irking. Let’s unpack some of it:
- Manchin claims he is concerned about the bill increasing the national debt and inflation because that in turn would harm “every hard-working American.” Okay, fair, Mr. Manchin– we can agree to be concerned about the plight of the average worker in America. BUT the free preschool, subsidized child care, medicaid expansion, and paid family and medical leave provisions (not to mention the climate policies!) that were to be included in the bill would help “every hard-working American” pretty dang directly. The national debt and inflation issues we are facing as a country are nothing to scoff at, yet it also seems clear that business as usual (i.e. not passing new legislation) is not going to cut it.
- Manchin also claims that “The energy transition my colleagues seek is already well underway.” Again, not a patently false statement, but very misleading. Yes, the US is transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, but it’s happening far too slowly to be effective in curbing climate change. The energy market needs federal assistance to make becoming carbon neutral a reality. Again, business as usual will simply not cut it.
- Finally, Manchin references the widespread blackouts in Texas and California over the past couple of years as examples of what happens when we invest in a cleaner grid. But this is some pretty messed up reasoning. Those blackouts happened in tandem with some very wacky weather in both states (winter storms in Texas, extreme heat in California) and were proof of the lack of resilience built into our current electricity systems. With wackier weather on the way as a result of climate change, now is certainly the time to update the grid.
More analyses on why Joe Manchin’s stated reasons for not passing the Build Back Better bill don’t make sense: Manchin says Build Back Better’s climate measures are risky. That’s not true and The Utter Hollowness of Joe Manchin.
So, what do we do now (other than feel sorely disheartened)?
I unfortunately have no grand solutions, but can only encourage you to continue to (1) take action (a couple of ideas for this week listed below) and (2) keep talking about climate change with friends and family.
Action Ideas: President Biden might be our best hope of getting any climate policies enacted now that the Build Back Better bill appears to be bust. So, you can still sign up to Occupy Biden as mentioned last week by gathering in front of his Delaware home and/or supporting from a distance. You can also sign a petition encouraging President Biden to go fossil-fuel free through executive action.