Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) has ramped up criticisms of his party’s radical climate proposals as he prepares for a tough reelection battle in 2024. But the West Virginia Democrat voted to advance a Biden nominee who wants to eradicate the coal industry, mandate that corporations become "carbon neutral" by 2025, and has urged activists to "name and shame" energy companies.
Manchin, the chairman of the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee, voted this week to confirm David Crane as undersecretary for infrastructure at the Department of Energy. Crane, a former director at the state-owned Saudi Electricity Company, wants to eradicate the coal industry, mandate that major corporations become "carbon neutral" by 2025, and urged activists to "name and shame" companies that fail to fall in line.
Manchin asserted that Crane "is well qualified" for the job, which will oversee infrastructure projects under the $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Manchin’s vote highlights the tightrope he’s tried to walk as a red state Democrat facing a difficult election year. Manchin, who has a 55 percent disapproval rating in his home state, blasted the Biden administration this month for failing to develop offshore oil and gas but voted last year against a measure that would do just that. Manchin recently threatened to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, a massive climate-heavy spending bill that he negotiated last year with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).
Crane, an influential voice in the "green revolution," has called for the eradication of coal, an industry that contributes $14 billion to West Virginia’s economy. In 2016, he urged activists to mount a campaign to "name and shame" corporations that fail to cut their energy usage to the liking of environmental activists. He said activism against those corporate "laggards" may need to become "more muscular—civil protests or even corporate proxy contests aimed at unseating the particularly egregious."
Crane called for the top 100 corporations in America to become carbon-neutral by 2025, a measure that he acknowledged would be "rough" on the companies. He endorsed the Green New Deal in 2019 and acknowledged that air travel and meat consumption may have to be curtailed to fight climate change.
"There’s been criticism that they don’t want us to fly in airplanes. They don’t want us to eat meat. You know, those are two significant carbon emitters, and it’s not impossible to get rid of carbon from those two sources, but that’s further down the road," Crane said.
Manchin is not the only embattled Senate Democrat whose support for a Biden nominee could come back to bite them next year. Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.), who is up for reelection next year, voted to confirm Jared Bernstein, the nominee for chairman of the White House Counsel of Economic Advisers. Bernstein complained that the price of gasoline "is too low" to curtail climate change. Bernstein has also opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that Tester supports.
Manchin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.