Front Porch Blog

Senator Manchin Should Listen to Himself

Joe Manchin

It’s rare to get this upset over someone making a valid statement, but the other day Sen. Manchin (D-WV) said something that I completely agree with, and it’s driving me nuts. When discussing the future of coal in a hearing with Department ofEnergy Secretary Steven Chu, he stated the following:

“It doesn’t make any sense at all that we can’t do it better, cleaner, and work together.”

Coal is inherently dirty, and the extraction process carries safety and environmental risks that cannot be entirely avoided. But we can do it better and cleaner, and if the Senator wants to include a feel-good political platitude, then sure, we can even “work together.”


The problem is, Sen. Manchin in practice stands against every effort to make the process better and cleaner. He not only opposes ending the most destructive form of extraction, mountaintop removal mining, but he also opposes proper scrutiny of the practice by the EPA. He opposes mandating the implementation of existing technologies that would reduce the air pollution from the burning of coal. He also opposes the EPA regulating the coal ash waste produced by the burning of that coal.

So what is he even talking about? Sen. Manchin was complaining that the Department of Energy was not investing enough in the research and development of coal-to-liquids technology as well as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS). In other words, he wants to spend taxpayer money developing technologies for the coal industry to profit from.

The funny thing about his advocacy for CCS is that it is (if ever produced on an industrial scale, which it hasn’t been) an expensive process with the sole purpose of capturing carbon dioxide during the burning of coal. No coal-fired power plant would ever implement CCS without a government mandate or some form of carbon tax, as the plant would have no economic incentive whatsoever. Companies don’t spend billions of dollars just to be nice. Unfortunately, Sen. Manchin has made his opposition to a carbon tax quite clear, and has never shown an interest in making coal plants do anything they don’t want to do. He is trying to gain Congressional support for the funding of a project that, if he has his way, will never be used on a large scale.

So, to respond to your statement, Senator, Appalachian Voices is ready and willing to “work together” with you to create a better, cleaner future for West Virginia. Whenever you’re ready, sir. Whenever you’re ready.

About Thom Kay

AV's Legislative Director, Thom spends his days between Durham, NC and Washington D.C., knee deep in politics and legislation, working to persuade decision-makers to protect Appalachian communities from mountaintop removal and to invest in a new economy for the region. He is the least outdoorsy person at Appalachian Voices, and he's just fine with that.


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