The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 26, 2014

Manchin: Balance needed

Leads Senate discussion of economy, environment

FAIRMONT — Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., discussed climate change on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, emphasizing the need for a balance between environmental responsibility and the economy.

Whitehouse started the discussion, saying that it was important for people to work together to “seek a responsible solution” that would not only try to mitigate the effects of climate change, but also “protect local economics.”

Manchin agreed.

“In the past, we may not have agreed on how to approach this problem,” Manchin said. “We both agree that we need to strike a balance between the economy and the environment.”

Manchin said that future policy needs to acknowledge the “reality of climate change,” as well as the fact that coal and fossil fuels will be a “vital part of the energy mix for decades to come.”

Manchin said that carbon emissions are causing a substantial change to the climate.

However, Manchin argued that continued use of coal helps ensure energy grid reliability, referencing the past winter’s “polar vortex” cold weather system, which increased energy demands.

“Coal is dependable, reliable and affordable,” Manchin said. “We need to maintain the reliability of the electricity system.”

Whitehouse agreed that the reliability of the electrical grid was key.

“Weather-related power outages have been on the rise since even the early ’90s,” Whitehouse said. “A smarter grid will make it easier to respond to and recover from extreme weather events.

“It’s in America’s interest to be leaders,” Whitehouse said, calling for research into cleaner fossil fuels and renewable energy technologies.

Manchin said that he would like to see the United States lead the world in the development of clean fossil fuel technologies.

“We can lead by example, and show the world that we can burn fossil fuels cleaner than ever,” Manchin said. He said it should be a priority, and could be done in a way that would protect consumers, create jobs and also help grow the economy.

Manchin and Whitehouse also discussed the Department of Energy’s Title 17 loan guarantee program.

“There’s a lot we can do without re-appropriating new money, using what’s already there,” Manchin said.

The program was established in 2005 through the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The program was intended to support energy technology that works to avoid, reduce or sequester carbon pollution.

Out of $34 billion in new loan guarantees that the DOE has the authority to issue under the original program, $8 billion is available for use for fossil energy projects. Both Manchin and Whitehouse said that money has not been disbursed.

“This money laying around in the DOE for almost 10 years needs to be reinvested,” Manchin said.

Manchin and Whitehouse said they will work together to urge the DOE to start utilizing the funds.

Whitehouse said that what current leaders do to combat climate change will determine how their legacy is seen by future Americans.

“Our generation will be judged on whether we are responsible on climate change, whether we listened and whether we led,” Whitehouse said. “The United States should be out front.”

Manchin and Whitehouse also plan on visiting each others’ states to see and understand the very different impacts climate change is having on each state.

Manchin reiterated the need to find a balance between the economy and making the changes necessary to counteract the human impact on climate change.

“We need to find the balance of the environment and our economic prosperity,” Manchin said. “We need to develop the technology that will allow us to use the fuels we need cleanly, and to export that technology to the world.”

Manchin and Whitehouse both spoke on the importance of compromise and understanding when discussing energy and climate policy.

“There is always room for reasonable compromise,” Manchin said. “We’re going to fix this together. Not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.”

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

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