Coal Tattoo


West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin keeps doing his best to promote himself as some sort of reasonable, bipartisan deal-broker, using his “common sense” approach to various issues. This maneuvering led him yesterday to be the only Democratic Senator to oppose the confirmation of the woman his party’s president wants to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the second term of the Obama administration.

As we reported in today’s Gazette, Sen. Manchin admitted that his vote against Gina McCarthy had nothing to do with her qualifications. In fact, the senator conceded she was highly qualified, describing her as,  “a talented scientist who has dedicated her life to public service.” Sen. Manchin praised Ms. McCarthy’s “pragmatism,” her “willingness to serve her country” and her “stellar bipartisan credentials, an extremely rare quality in Washington these days.” Sen. Manchin noted that she had worked for both political parties, and with a very odd tone, the senator added:

In fact, it’s not hard to imagine that she could have been nominated to be EPA Administrator by Mitt Romney if he had won the 2012 Presidential election. After all, she advised him on climate change when he was Governor of Massachusetts.

But apparently good qualifications aren’t enough:

… My vote against her goes much deeper than her nomination, her views on energy and the environment or even her job performance the last four years as head of air policy at the EPA.

No, my vote against Gina McCarthy is really a vote against the Administration’s lack of any serious attempt to develop an energy strategy for America’s future.

We need to develop every source of American-made energy.

It’s only common sense to use what you’ve got.

There are any variety of problems with Sen. Manchin’s approach here, not the least of which is hypocrisy of criticizing the tone of coal industry critics by saying:

… If we stop demonizing  one energy resource, and I do mean demonizing it … when people say, “I hate this” or “I hate that” and “I can’t stand this” … you know what, turn the lights off, turn the air conditioning off, turn it all off and see how you like it …

I mean come on, just a few sentences before, Sen. Manchin was throwing around the coal industry’s terminology, making a policy discussion out to be an armed conflict:

The President often speaks about an “all-of-the-above” energy policy. But his new global climate proposal amounts to a true declaration of war on one of the above – coal.

But the real problem for Sen. Manchin is his focus on “energy independence” instead of helping to deal with the climate crisis. Here’s what the senator says:

My fight is with the EPA and the President who nominated her to head the regulatory agency.

That fight will not end with the Senate’s vote on Ms. McCarthy’s nomination.

That fight will continue until the EPA stops its regulatory rampage and until the President comes up with feasible policies that achieve real energy independence.

We’ve talked about this before on Coal Tattoo.  The political quest for energy independence is really a “dry hole” and an “empty campaign promise.”  What Sen. Manchin really wants to be asking is not how President Obama intends to make our nation “energy independent,” but how the president plans to lead the U.S. and the world toward fixing the climate crisis. In particular, Sen. Manchin might do his constituents more good if he focused on how West Virginians — especially his friends in the coal industry — can do their part in that fight.

The real question for Sen. Manchin and the rest of our political leaders was made even more clear last week with the release of a military report, in a story broken by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Inside Climate News:

A new report from the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses and the London-based Royal United Services Institute, two of the NATO alliance’s front-line strategy centers, recommends putting more effort into fighting global warming than securing reliable supplies of fossil fuels.

The authors call the habitual American fixation on winning energy independence through expanded North American production of oil and natural gas “misguided.” They say the “only sustainable solution” to the problem of energy insecurity is not through more drilling, but through energy efficiency and renewable fuels, like biofuels to replace oil.

… And in blunt language, they criticize American policymakers and legislators for refusing to accept the “robust” scientific evidence that emissions of carbon dioxide are already causing harmful global warming, and for refusing to take actions that, if taken swiftly, could ward off its worst effects.

“Political leaders, including many in the United States, refuse to accept short-term costs to address long-term dangers even though the future costs of responding to disasters after they occur will be far greater,” said their report, published this month.