West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin called President Biden’s “infrastructure” bill a “golden opportunity” Thursday but warned that a green economy cannot be achieved by eliminating the state’s oldest energy product – coal.
“We have a golden opportunity now with the new infrastructure bill,” Manchin told reporters. “That energy is going to play such an important part and…how we can lead in the world.”
“I have said this before, you cannot eliminate your way to a cleaner climate, you can innovate your way, but not eliminate your way,” he added.
Manchin met with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm Thursday to address how his state will fit into Biden’s roughly $2 trillion plan to revamp the U.S. energy sector.
Biden has pushed Republicans on the Hill to tackle climate change, invest in U.S. infrastructure and boost American jobs in his historically expensive package, but GOP lawmakers have refused to agree to what they believe is a bloated deal.
The president’s infrastructure package is a critical step in achieving his goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in half from its 2005 level by 2030.
Manchin has reframed from openly supporting Biden’s package and has applauded GOP efforts to refocus the infrastructure bill towards traditional items like roads and bridges, in exchange for a smaller price tag.
“We have to look at the needs that we have,” Manchin told reporters Thursday. “Also what we can afford to pay, [and] what we’re willing to pay for,” he added.
West Virginia and Wyoming are the country’s largest suppliers of coal. Manchin argued the 500 coal plants located across the U.S. are not the issue when it comes to global warming.
“There are 6,600 coal-fired plants in the world. Around the world, there’s another 1,063 being built as we speak,” the senator said. “So, for those who thought that 504 coal-fired plants in America were polluting the whole world and changing the climate, you’re wrong.”
Manchin told reporters that it was important to West Virginians that U.S. technologies were utilized by nations continuing to invest in coal-based energy.
But West Virginia is also set to enter a new energy sector by facilitating the construction of offshore wind turbines and advancing the U.S. green economy.
Granholm said that steel from the Appalachian state would be used to construct a ship that is needed to help transport supplies to build offshore wind developments.
“This is sort of a window into the opportunity for West Virginia to be a leader in the energy of the future in addition to having led the energy that got us here and still powers us,” Granholm said.
“President Biden wants to make sure that no one is left behind and that these communities see an opportunity for themselves in this clean energy future,” she continued. “That this clean energy sector creates all kinds of jobs for all kinds of people.”
Read More: Manchin calls infrastructure bill a ‘golden opportunity’ but warns against eliminating coal