Joe Manchin has never been so famous. People around the world now know that the West Virginia Democrat is the 50th essential U.S. Senate vote President Joe Biden needs to get his platform through. This includes Biden’s climate agenda. Which does not bode well for defusing the climate emergency, given Manchin’s longstanding opposition to ambitious climate action.
It turns out that the senator wielding this awesome power – America’s chief climate decision-maker, you might call him – has a huge climate conflict of interest. Joe Manchin, investigative journalism has revealed, is a modern day coal lord.
Financial records detailed by reporter Alex Kotch for the Center for Media and Democracy and published in the Guardian show that Manchin earns about half a million dollars a year in dividends on millions of dollars in coal company stocks he possesses. The shares are held by Enersystems, Inc, a company Manchin started in 1988 and then handed management to his son, Joseph.
Coal has been the main driver of global warming since coal began fueling Britain’s Industrial Revolution 250 years ago. Today the science is clear: Charcoal needs to be phased out, starting immediately and around the world, to keep the 1.5 ° C target within reach.
Scientists estimate that 90% of current coal reserves should be left in the ground. No new coal-fired power plant is expected to be built. Existing power plants are expected to quickly switch to solar and wind, augmented by reduced demand for electricity with better energy efficiency in buildings and machinery (which also saves money and creates more jobs).
It is not a sight that rejoices the heart of a coal baron. The idea of phasing out fossil fuels is “very, very worrying,” Manchin said in July when details of Biden’s climate program surfaced. Behind the scenes, Manchin reportedly opposed Biden’s plan to penalize electric utilities that don’t give up coal as quickly as science dictates.