What do Joe Manchin and Vladimir Putin have in common?
Nothing, except this: They both wish to burn fossil fuels.
The purported Democrat from West Virginia fooled fellow Democrats for 18 precious months, running out the clock while eviscerating Joe Biden’s climate bill.
Sen. Manchin finally ‘fessed up: He won’t vote for any of the bill’s urgent climate measures because they impose taxes on wealth and hardships on fossil fuel purveyors. Manchin also reneged on his earlier support for the international effort to prevent corporations from evading taxes by hiding profits in tax havens.
There’s no longer any doubt about whose interests Manchin serves. It’s certainly not taxpayers’. They’re expected to subsidize their own demise.
Globally, taxpayers every day gift the fossil fuel industry $16 billion in subsidies, according to the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, the industry’s daily global profits over the last 50 years averaged $2.8 billion in today’s dollars, according to World Bank data.
Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin has received more money from fossil fuel interests than anyone in Congress.
Manchin insists inflation will result if Congress enacts measures to stem climate change. Apparently he doesn’t care how bad inflation — a cyclical, baked-in feature of our economy — will be if we do nothing.
Last year, climate disasters alone cost the U.S. $145 billion. Who pays for that?
Manchin claims he wants to protect his constituents from paying more for, well … electricity. All anyone really needs to know about Joe Manchin is this: while a state lawmaker, he helped a firm called AmBit get a coal power plant licensed, then went into business as sole supplier of waste “gob” coal for that plant. He facilitated a tax credit, air pollution permit and rate increase for it.
AmBit has partly been owned by national and foreign energy firms. They lobby Manchin’s Senate committee on industry-wide, climate-related regulatory issues that might affect AmBit.
This situation raises potential conflicts of interest, noted the New York Times. Manchin’s family firm gets a 1% cut of gross revenues from AmBit’s plant — in addition to the gob sales profits.
Here’s the thing: The utility that bought electricity from AmBit paid $117 million more for it than it would have if the electricity hadn’t been produced with Manchin’s gob, according to the utility’s 2021 filings with the state’s Public Service Commission. (The contract expires in 2036.)
The gob plant deal made Manchin wealthy. And who paid the extra-high cost of this electricity? Manchin’s own constituents, whose finances Manchin is so deeply worried about that he’ll sacrifice a habitable planet to spare them from inflation.
Manchin lamely argues that Congress should wait to see whether this round of inflation abates before doing anything about climate. He admits telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer: “We can just wait. How much more and how much [more] damaging is that going to be?”
Last week, London’s temperature reached 104 F. Last summer, just a bit more than 100 air miles north of the Methow, the town of Lytton, B.C., registered 121 F. before incinerating. It was the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere north of the 45th Parallel.
That heat dome killed hundreds in the Pacific Northwest. At my house near Winthrop it reached 114 F. When I briefly stepped outside, sharp pinpricks stabbed along my exposed arms as moisture popped through my pores.
How much hotter does it have to get? Is there any number on the thermometer that can persuade Congress to act? Hello?
Congress never has passed a climate bill. Greed and myopia always have triumphed, not the public interest. It’s an utter failure of self-rule. And it’s persuasive evidence that, as a species, we may just be too dumb to survive.
“It seems odd,” mused John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress, “that Senator Manchin would choose as his legacy to be the one man who single-handedly doomed humanity.”
Manchin isn’t the only contender for that distinction. The depth of Vladimir Putin’s delusions is hard to read. But given his Ukrainian invasions, his strategic goals do become ever clearer. He, like Hitler, requires more “Lebensraum” — this time for a Russian-dominated, fossil-fueled world.
Russia has, by far, the world’s largest supply of natural gas. Fossil fuels are the source of Russia’s wealth. But if they become worthless, what happens to Russia?
For Putin, an aggrieved, insecure, murderous bully, it’s an existential question.
Aside from grabbing Ukraine — we kindly indulged his Crimean land grab, so here he is again — Putin recently changed tactics.
He began threatening his Scandinavian neighbors along the strategic Barents Sea passage, home to Russia’s offshore oil reserves and its northern nuclear submarine fleet.
Putin recently warned Scandinavians they must choose between Russia and NATO. Awkwardly, Norway’s former prime minister, as head of NATO, aids Ukraine. Also a fossil fuel exporter, Norway borders Russia.
Europeans meanwhile disempowered themselves by relying on Russia’s natural gas to power their economies. Unwise. Now Putin’s weaponizing gas deliveries to demonstrate his power over Europe.
“The West will not directly intervene nor will it assist Ukraine to a point that could lead to Russia’s military defeat,” predicts Tatina Stanovaya at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
So then what? Putin understands he’s got everything to lose if fossil fuels become irrelevant. We need to understand that he’s a sore loser.
Solveig Torvik lives near Winthrop.