Manchin says climate change must be on “front burner” — but is it even on his stovetop? April Keating and Eric Engle, Gas Committee co-Chairs
Senator Joe Manchin III, senior senator from West Virginia, now finds himself as the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the senator had this to say when leaving the Independent Oil and Gas Association Winter Meeting in Charleston: “We’re going to surprise a lot of people, because climate change has to be on the front burner. Everything we do has to be done with climate change in consideration.” While this is certainly refreshing to hear, talk is cheap. What will the senator actually do to back this up? That’s a tough question to answer. The senator has passionately backed oil and gas development in our state and throughout Appalachia, including pipelines, ethane cracker plants, and an Appalachian Storage Hub that will store liquid natural gas (LNG), the feedstock for plastic, underground in old salt caverns between WV and OH, making us the new “cancer alley.” He backs extensive petrochemicals development throughout Appalachia in a world drowning in plastic. According to the Huffington Post, “By 2030, the U.S. is on track to produce 60 percent of the world’s new oil and gas supply, an expansion at least four times larger than in any other country. By 2050, the country’s newly tapped reserves are projected to spew 120 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. That would make it nearly impossible to keep global warming within the 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages, beyond which United Nations scientists forecast climate change to be catastrophic, with upward of $54 trillion in damages.” Carbon dioxide is not even the most worrisome greenhouse gas when it comes to oil and gas development. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more efficient at trapping heat over a 20-year period than CO2. Methane is released in large quantities at all stages of oil and gas development, from extraction to shipping to storage to use. Gas extraction is toxic from cradle to grave. We need an immediate phase out of all fossil fuels. Will Sen. Manchin support this? Well, there’s one concrete measure he can support for starters. The Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763) has been reintroduced this session in the U.S. House, and no doubt will be introduced in the Senate as well. This is bipartisan legislation that places an increasing price on carbon at the source but refunds the costs of the carbon tax 100 percent to American households in the form of a dividend to help lower- and middle-income Americans afford the price increases. The legislation is expected to reduce emissions by 40 percent in the first 12 years, and 90 percent by 2050. Senator Manchin should put his full support as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee behind the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act. He could even be the senator who reintroduces it with bipartisan support in the Senate. There are also legislative initiatives at the state level that Sen. Manchin could throw his support behind. One is The Modern Jobs (MOJO) Act (HB 2589) introduced by Del. Evan Hansen, and the other is SB 409, a bill permitting third-party ownership of renewable and alternative generating facilities, being advocated for by the West Virginians for Energy Freedom coalition (wv4ef.org). Our state’s senior senator can make the difference he claims he wants to make, and surprise us all, but it’s going to take more than words. Call or write Sen. Manchin today and insist that he take tangible steps toward preserving our future and protecting the citizens of West Virginia, the U.S., and the world!