How is it that our fate can be in the hands of a single corrupt fossil fuel profiteer? We cannot accept a system in which Joe Manchin gets to decide our future for us.

By Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

Joe Manchin has scuppered Democratic plans for climate legislation, after leading other senators on for months and suggesting he would support it. As the New York Times tells us, while Democrats have “contorted themselves to suit his often-changing dictates and have scaled back their ambitions repeatedly to stay within his red lines,” Manchin “led his party through months of tortured negotiations that collapsed on Thursday night, a yearlong wild goose chase that produced nothing as the Earth warms to dangerous levels”:

Senator Joe Manchin is confronted by climate activists as he leaves hi yacht on his way to capitol hill

[First he] killed a plan that would have forced power plants to clean up their climate-warming pollution. Then, he shattered an effort to help consumers pay for electric vehicles. And, finally, he said he could not support government incentives for solar and wind companies or any of the other provisions that the rest of his party and his president say are vital to ensure a livable planet…. Mr. Manchin’s refusal to support the climate legislation, along with steadfast Republican opposition, effectively dooms the chances that Congress will pass any new law to tackle global warming for the foreseeable future—at a moment when scientists say the planet is nearly out of time to prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. 

The Times notes that Manchin has received more campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry than anyone else in the Senate and has personally made millions from the coal business. Manchin is essentially openly corrupt. As Jeff Goodell of Rolling Stone noted in an investigation, Manchin’s

“wealth has been accumulated through controversial coal-related businesses in his home state, including using his political muscle to keep open the dirtiest coal plant in West Virginia, which paid him nearly $5 million over the past decade in fees for coal handling. … West Virginians have been paying millions of dollars each year in higher electricity costs in order to keep running a dirty, inefficient power plant that is sickening and killing people with dirty air, but paying the Manchin family handsomely.”

Goodell quotes Virginia Canter, ethics counsel to Presidents Obama and Clinton, who calls Manchin’s business dealings a transparent “grift” and “one of the most egregious conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.” Sadly, as we know, there is no punishment whatsoever for corruption in Washington, no matter how egregious it may be.

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