OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The White House quickly reversed course after President Joe Biden said the administration would be working to shutter coal-fired power plants amid an energy crisis following a rebuke from a leading Democrat from a coal-producing state.
“I was in Massachusetts about a month ago on the site of the largest old coal plant in America. Guess what? It cost them too much money,” Biden said during an event in Carlsbad, Calif., on Friday. “No one is building new coal plants because they can’t rely on it, even if they have all the coal guaranteed for the rest of the existence of the plant. So it’s going to become a wind generation.”
“And all they’re doing is, it’s going to save them a hell of a lot of money, and using the same transmission line that they transmitted the coal-fired electric on, we’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar power,” Biden pledged.
In response, Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from the coal-reliant red state of West Virginia, said that view is “outrageous” and “divorced from reality.”
“President Biden’s comments are not only outrageous and divorced from reality, they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs,” Manchin noted in a statement. “Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believe he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure.
“It seems his positions change depending on the audience and the politics of the day. Politicizing our nation’s energy policies would only bring higher prices and more pain for the American people,” he added.
My statement on comments President Biden made about shutting down coal plants: pic.twitter.com/LEeqrGdwqm
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) November 5, 2022
“Let me be clear, this is something the President has never said to me,” Manchin continued. “Being cavalier about the loss of coal jobs for men and women in West Virginia and across the country who literally put their lives on the line to help build and power this country is offensive and disgusting. The President owes these incredible workers an immediate and public apology and it is time he learn a lesson that his words matter and have consequences.”
Mindful that Manchin is a key Democratic vote in the evenly divided Senate, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre quickly issued a response to his statement, claiming that Biden’s words are being twisted when in reality, they are simply being quoted:
President Biden knows that the men and women of coal country built this nation: they powered its steel mills and factories, kept its homes and schools and offices warm. They made this the most productive and powerful nation on Earth. He came to the White House to end years of big words but little action to help the coal-producing parts of our country. Working closely with Senator Manchin, a tireless advocate for his state and the hard-working men and women who live there, President Biden has helped get this part of the country back to work: the unemployment rate in West Virginia was 6.2% the last month before Joe Biden took office; now it is down to 4%. The President’s plans are already bringing new energy and manufacturing jobs to the region, and in the years ahead, will continue to create new jobs with projects like hydrogen energy generation. In fact, through the Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, President Biden has already delivered more than $23 billion to energy communities across the country.
White House walks back POTUS comments on shutting down coal plants after stinging Manchin statement:
“The President’s remarks yesterday have been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense.” pic.twitter.com/pAyhdfWG2i
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) November 5, 2022
The President’s remarks yesterday have been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense. The President was commenting on a fact of economics and technology: as it has been from its earliest days as an energy superpower, America is once again in the midst of an energy transition. Our goal as a nation is to combat climate change and increase our energy security by producing clean and efficient American energy. Under President Biden, oil and natural gas production has increased, and we are on track to hit the highest production in our country’s history next year. He is determined to make sure that this transition helps all Americans in all parts of the country, with more jobs and better opportunities; it’s a commitment he has advanced since Day One. No one will be left behind.