Joe Biden is following through on his promise to be the climate change president. He has already issued a series of executive orders on the environment and has pledged to achieve a 100 percent clean energy economy with net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
These measures will have a dramatic impact on West Virginia.
West Virginia is the second largest coal producing state. West Virginia has already been hit hard by the dramatic drop in the production and demand for coal, but the state still has nearly 1.5 billion tons of recoverable reserves.
West Virginia is not among the top natural gas producing states, but some of the largest reserves in the world are buried under our state in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The state is just beginning to see some of the economic benefits of natural gas as a feedstock for many products.
So, President Biden’s aggressive climate plans set off alarm bells here. Senator Shelley Moore Capito has already called out the administration on the prohibition of new oil and gas leases on federal property and offshore.
“This is an economic energy and national security disaster,” Capito said on the Senate floor last week. “In my view, this order moves America from energy independence back to relying on foreign sources of fuel. And a lot of times they are the countries that have much laxer environmental policies than we have right here in the United States.”
Senator Joe Manchin, as the incoming Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, will play a pivotal role in the fate of climate legislation. He quizzed incoming Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm last week about the impact of climate policy on coal communities.
“People feel like they’ve been left behind,” Manchin said. Later, he asked Granholm if she supported spending federal dollars for energy research and development and new technologies in states like West Virginia.
Granholm answered, “1000 percent! Yes.”
Also last week, Gina McCarthy, who was President Obama’s EPA administrator and now serves as a climate advisor to Biden, pledged the administration’s help for communities hit hard by new climate policies.
“We’re going to make sure nobody is left behind,” McCarthy said. “We need to put people to work in their own communities. That’s where their home is. That’s where the vision is. So, we are creatively looking at those opportunities for investment so that we can get people understanding that we’re not trying to take away jobs.”
The political and economic reality is that the country is moving away from carbon-based fuels. Power companies and corporations want more alternative fuels to satisfy the demands from customers and shareholders.
The Obama plan was one-sided—shut down coal-fired power plants and cut carbon emissions. President Trump talked about his love for coal, but employment fell during his tenure.
No wonder West Virginia leaders are skeptical, if not openly hostile, toward more promises from another administration.