Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The coal man with the fate of the world in his hands
By Nick O’Malley
January 23, 2022 — 9.00am
This month around the world those most engaged in the desperate fight to cut fossil fuel emissions in time to prevent the very worst impacts of global warming are watching one man: Joe Manchin, a Democratic senator for West Virginia. A coal man.
“What would you tell Manchin if you were sitting down with him today?” I asked the Australian climate scientist and physicist Bill Hare, a man who knows about as much as anyone about global climate politics
“I’d tell him he has history in his hands,” says Hare.
The American political veteran John Podesta, a key counsellor over the years to Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and now Joe Biden and his climate envoy John Kerry, was more blunt in a recent Rolling Stone article.
If Joe Manchin does not cease his opposition to crucial climate policy now being championed by Biden, “we are all f—ed”.
Podesta was not talking about the Democratic Party, nor even the United States, but the world.
On Thursday, the leading climate scientist and advocate Michael Mann said he shared the view, telling the Herald and The Age the need to rapidly decarbonise was now so acute that the decisions made by individuals in power at present, and by Manchin specifically, could have profound implications on all of us.
Today even the coal unions which once backed Manchin’s dedicated support of their industry have lost faith.
“We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families and their communities,” said United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil Roberts, a long-time ally of Manchin’s, in a statement four days before Christmas.
Many, including those quoted in the excoriating Rolling Stone profile, have noted that Manchin’s vast family fortune comes not from toiling in mines but from trading in energy produced by burning the dirtiest form of fuel used in the region, a coal waste product known as “gob”.
…Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/the-coal-man-with-the-fate-of-the-world-in-his-hands-20220121-p59q20.html
So long as China and India continue to expand fossil fuel capacity at breakneck speed, so long as Africa and other poor nations are leaping onto the coal bandwagon to finally break free from centuries of poverty, nothing President Biden or Joe Manchin does will make any lasting difference to global CO2 emissions.
So why demonize Senator Manchin?
Demonizing Senator Manchin is irrational, but I believe the most extreme climate activists in their despair have moved well beyond reason.
What I believe we are seeing is the final collapse of the climate movement. The last holdouts in the bunker are screaming impotently at each other and and the world, pointlessly arguing over whose fault it was, as the inevitable day of reckoning approaches.
Senator Joe Manchin is no fool, he gets it. With coal making a huge comeback even in green Europe, and the USA sitting on the largest share of the world’s coal reserves, and West Virginia sitting on a sizeable chunk of those world class US coal reserves, it would be the height of insanity to shut down US coal production just as the party is getting started.
This will be a great year to be a climate skeptic.