The only way to pass a federal climate change law that avoids a Republican filibuster is with the vote of all 50 US Democratic Senators, including Sen. Joe Manchin. Even though Manchin is technically a democrat, he is from West Virginia where coal was king, and Trump won by 40 points in 2020. Manchin has made headlines by opposing the key provision of Biden’s climate plan that would ratchet up penalties on electric utilities that use coal and gas to make power, while incentivizing them to use renewables. While battling his colleagues over the climate bill, Manchin raked in more than $400k from fossil fuel interests. Mr. Manchin is the #1 recipient of donations from the oil and gas and coal mining industries this election cycle. US corporations are free to make unlimited campaign contributions to advance their interests. It works.
Replacing the nation’s coal-and-gas-fired power plants with wind, solar and nuclear energy is the only path to the needed dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but that probably won’t happen now. Around 50% of total US emissions come from a combination of sources we can cut only modestly: heating and powering residential and commercial buildings, industry and agriculture. These will take 30 years, not 15. Vehicles are responsible for 29% of US emissions but converting the entire fleet from gas and diesel to electric will take 30+ years and only begin to make a difference 5-10 years from now. If we make all the electricity for these EVs from coal and natural gas, the benefit is much lower. So, we have to start with electricity generation from the utilities.
If Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress cannot pass policies to help the US meet its 2030 pledge of 50% reduction in emissions, the US goes to COP26 with a weak hand. Over the past year, the US has tried to build back its credibility on climate issues. US climate envoy John Kerry told the AP that if Congress fails to pass significant climate change legislation “it would be like President Trump pulling out of the Paris agreement, again.”
While China now has higher total annual emissions, the US has emitted far more CO2 over history than any country, and Americans produce 3x the amount of emissions on a per capita basis than the Chinese. Without leadership from the US, it is unlikely that the nations at COP26 will make the quantum leap from their Paris commitments to keep the planet from heating up more than 1.5 degrees C.
Sadly, Joe Manchin is in the company of 50 Republican Senators who oppose virtually any serious effort to reduce US emissions. Many of them don’t even believe the climate science. The most hopeful thing that’s happened in the past week is the stock market signaled that climate change is real – and will be profitable. EV, solar and clean energy company Tesla rallied over 12% on Monday to $1,024 after a great earnings announcement, and Hertz announced that it will purchase 100,000 Tesla cars. Many other clean energy stocks we have written about also rallied hard on Tesla’s heels.