Is the Manchin Climate Compromise Worth It?

July 29, 2022

Leah Stokes explains why, yes, it is. Don’t be distracted.


The breakthrough spending deal reached by Senators Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer would commit a historic $370 billion to combat climate change through clean energy tax credits, a green bank and incentives to plug methane leaks.

But it comes at a cost that some green activists are finding impossible to accept: More oil and gas lease sales on public lands and waters.

The measures, outlined late Wednesday in the 725-page spending bill, require the sale of drilling rights in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. The bill would also make new renewable power projects on federal land and water contingent on future sales.

The legislation illustrates the challenges Democrats have in winning over coal-loving Manchin, a key moderate whose vote is needed in the evenly split Senate, while meeting the rest of his party’s demands to make climate change a major and urgent priority. Manchin’s steadfast support for his home state’s fossil fuel industry has enraged environmentalists, and could lead to yet another setback for the climate agenda of President Joe Biden, who campaigned on a pledge to block new oil and gas drilling on public lands.

No, it’s not “suicide pact”.
It means Oil companies get to bid on leases and put money in the public treasury gambling that the resources they’re bidding for won’t be stranded assets by the time they develop them.

The history of renewable energy suggests that innovations always come faster and cheaper then anyone imagines. One example would be Obama’s controversial “Clean Power Plan”, which was never even put in force, which had goals that have already been exceeded by power producers responding to rapidly evolving markets.
If oil companies want to make that bet I’ll take it every time. Enact the law, let’s go.


3 Responses to “Is the Manchin Climate Compromise Worth It?”

  1. Let’s wait and see.. 🌍

  2. Absolutely agree that an outcome can justify some sacrifices. Hoping to celebrate soon the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

    I’ve volunteered for almost a decade for an organization which has advocated for a policy putting a small, steadily increasing price on the carbon content of fossil fuels, coupled with a rebate of revenue to U.S. households. That’s known as Carbon Fee & Dividend. It’s in a bill with 96 co-sponsors in the House of Reps, and has many backers, including economists who will tell you this is effective as well as fair for moving the entire economy away from fossil fuels.

    But starting early this year we’ve downplayed that policy request to legislators, pushing instead for getting the best and biggest climate package which may bring in 50 Democratic votes in the Senate.

    Caring about the planet means focusing on the outcome and not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. I totally agree with the gist of this piece, which is the importance of pulling together and accepting compromises which keep a broad coalition behind policy that works. Being passionate sometimes requires making sacrifices to unify a coalition for success.

    The work on this issue really just starting, and we’ll need more big successes.

  3. jimbills Says:

    I’ve lost any kind of belief that Manchin is a good faith negotiator. The proposed bill has tax elements that Sinema has long said she’d vote against, and Manchin is now saying he won’t support the bill without those elements. It’s like he’s intentionally blowing up the bill while simultaneously seeking political cover – he gets to say he tried to pass it while actually killing it. Sinema has meanwhile largely gone dark:

    This is still far from a done deal as it stands now.

    The positives of the bill are that it gives renewables and EV companies a much more solid footing to gain market share in the next decade, and that is a very big deal. But, it also gives a lot to FF, and there are reports that Schumer has also agreed to give more to FF in a future deal.

    If ones sees the future as just renewables taking over from FF, I’d suggest that may be too optimistic. What if it’s both renewables and FF that do well? I could easily see a future where renewables take more market share by percent then they have now, but in a growing market, that could also mean that FF would still be a very significant player for many decades to come.

    This bill doesn’t address any sort of rapid change. It does push renewables in the right direction, and that is really important, but it’s still a market approach. It’s probably the best the U.S. could do right now (and it still might not pass), but it’s still pathetic compared to what is needed.

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