Sen. Joe Manchin is pushing for natural gas to be included as part of President Joe Biden’s clean energy plans, which is putting him at odds with fellow Democrats who are fearful he will have the power to thwart what they believe is a rare chance to make substantial legislative gains regarding climate change.
The centrist West Virginia Democrat, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wants exclusive jurisdiction over a $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, “which would provide grants to utilities that increase their share of clean energy sources,” The Hill reported Monday.
He plans on using his clout to call for the inclusion of natural gas in any Biden clean energy initiative although the House Energy and Commerce Committee has excluded that fossil fuel from the program after defining “clean energy” as that which produced a carbon density of less than .10 metric tons of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour.
When Manchin was asked by the outlet last week if he planned on insisting that natural gas be a part of Biden’s clean energy plans, he said that “it has to be.”
“I’m all for all of the above, I’m all for clean energy but I’m also for producing the amount of energy that we need to make sure that we have reliability and I’m concerned about that,” Manchin said.
He went on to note that he has told his colleagues in recent weeks he doesn’t believe U.S. utility companies ought to be pressured into buying electricity that has been generated from natural gas that was produced using carbon-capture technology, which is pricey and underdeveloped.
“I’d love to have carbon capture — we don’t have the technology because we haven’t really gotten to that point and it’s so darn expensive that it makes it almost improbable,” Manchin said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in 2019 West Virginia ranked sixth in the nation in the production of natural gas. The same year, the state ranked third in proven natural gas reserves behind only Texas and Pennsylvania.
Under former President Donald Trump’s energy policies, the U.S. became a net exporter of natural gas and crude oil for the first time in half a century. Those same policies have led to a boom in the natural gas industry, but that is now being threatened by Biden’s and Democrats’ climate agenda, according to Forbes.
However, Manchin’s quest to retain fossil fuel in any climate legislation is bumping up against the agendas of other Democrats who want to downplay and reduce their use in the coming years ostensibly to combat a projected 1.5 degrees Celcius climb in global temperature, an objective established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“Natural gas is a fossil fuel. Natural gas is a terrible global warming gas … and it has no place in such a program, otherwise it becomes a bill to subsidize fossil fuel when we want to subsidize renewable energy,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who is a top proponent of adding strong global warming measures to the reconciliation package, told The Hill.
In addition to Merkley, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont all want the reconciliation measure to contain strict global warming and environmental provisions that would curb production and use of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, which they want to see coupled with carbon-capture technology.
“The fate of the planet is at stake. Without a strong reconciliation bill there will be no serious effort to cut carbon emissions & transform our energy system away from fossil fuel,” Sanders said in a tweet Friday.
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