U.S. Senator Joe Manchin’s political acumen is normally pretty sharp. His infamous 2010 TV ad where he fires a bullet into the federal cap-and-trade bill was a classic. However, when it comes to the current fight in the West Virginia Legislature over an energy bill, Manchin is missing the mark.
The new Republican leadership wants to repeal the 2009 Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law. That legislation dictates to West Virginia utilities what percentage of alternative fuels they must use to generate electricity: 10 percent this year, 15 percent by 2020 and 25 percent by 2025.
The GOP scornfully calls the law–pushed through by then-Governor Joe Manchin–“cap-and-trade,” although that’s somewhat misleading. The law does not cap carbon emissions, but it does cap the percentage of coal generated energy and allow for the trading of credits.
House and Senate bills to revoke the law have started moving through the Legislature with some bi-partisan support… and Manchin is livid. “I am deeply disappointed that the Republicans in (the) West Virginia Legislature have decided to play partisan politics with our state’s energy and utility rates by attempting to repeal the bipartisan Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio law.”
Manchin argues the law is a common sense approach to encouraging utilities to use all of West Virginia’s energy resources, “from building more efficient coal power plants and upgrading old plants, to investing in renewable energy.”
However, there is a problem with that logic.
Why should the government dictate to utilities where they get their sources of energy? West Virginia gets 95 percent of its electricity from coal. It’s a cheap and reliable fuel that keeps energy costs down for consumers, which is why utilities burn coal.
Forcing power companies to include more expensive and less dependable alternatives drives up prices, which is tantamount to ratepayer subsidies for wind, solar and other non-traditional sources. FirstEnergy Government Affairs manager Sammy Gray told lawmakers during a committee meeting last week that solar and wind are about three times more expensive than coal.
Republicans ran on repealing “cap-and-trade” and they now control both chambers of the Legislature. It’s apparent that a number of Democrats are going to join with them on this fight. Senator Manchin need not burn any more of his political capital trying to defend this law, especially by claiming its planned revocation is a result of a “corrosive political atmosphere” similar to Washington.
He may want to think back to his 2010 TV ad, when he had better aim.