West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin: Biden’s Coal Comments are ‘Divorced from Reality’

President Joe Biden was recently criticized by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a fellow Democrat ally and antagonist, for being “divorced from reality” and “cavalier” after he vowed to close coal-fired power plants and rely more heavily on solar energy and wind in the future.  

Manchin hails from a powerful coal state and said the president’s words “ignore the severe economic pain” for Americans paying higher energy prices and why they “are losing trust” in Biden. 

Senator Manchin’s rebuke of the president comes at a difficult time for Democrats on the final weekend of campaigning before Tuesday’s midterm election. The election is critical and could sway the balance of power, putting Republicans back in control of Congress.

Manchin called for a public apology from Biden. The White House later released a statement claiming the president’s words had been “twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended” and that Biden “regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense.”

During a speech in Carlsbad, California, Biden’s reference to coal power angered Manchin. The president sought to spotlight his $280 billion plan to boost scientific research and the semiconductor industry. 

“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,” said Biden. “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 their existence of the plant. So, it’s going to become a wind generation,” added Biden. “We’re going to be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar.”

In July, Biden visited a former coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts. The former power plant, Brayton Point in Somerset, is transitioning to offshore wind power manufacturing. The president chose it as an example of the transition to ‘clean energy’; that is his goal. The push toward green energy was passed with Manchin’s assistance in August.

Trump promised to restore mining jobs and revive coal production

Former President Donald Trump had promised to restore mining jobs and revive the coal industry. Still, the industry’s decline over the past decade continues as utility companies turn to cheaper natural gas and renewable forms of industry, like solar and wind power, to generate electricity.

A government agency, the Energy Information Administration, reported an average of 39,518 employees in coal mines across the country in 2021. This is down dramatically from 91,611 in 2011. Wyoming is the leading state for coal production.

Manchin serves as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and said President Biden’s statements were “not only outrageous and divorced from reality; they ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs.”

According to Manchin, Biden’s remarks “are why the American people are losing trust in President Biden. …It seems his positions change daily depending on the audience and politics of the day.”

Manchin’s support was critical to Biden winning passage of his much-touted Inflation Reduction Act. With the president’s comments, Manchin slammed him for “offensive and disgusting” words and said coal workers in West Virginia “an immediate and public apology.”

“Let me be clear; this is something the president has never said to me. Being cavalier about the 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,” said Manchin. He added that “it is time he learns a lesson that his words matter and have consequences.”

The White House defended the president’s statement saying he was “commenting on a fact of economics and technology” when the country is committing to an “energy transition” and means to ensure “more jobs and better opportunities. …No one will be left behind.”

Late in 2021, Manchin destroyed Biden’s big domestic policy bill. The president’s press secretary said the senator’s opposition was “a breach of his commitments” to congressional Democrats and Biden and was “a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position.”

This past summer, Manchin reversed his position again and backed the revised bill, which became law with only Democratic votes.