Updated Nov 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Joe Manchin condemns Biden's "offensive" coal plant remarks

Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, speaks at a community event.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) speaks at a community event. Photo: Gaelen Morse/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) condemned President Biden's recent comments on shutting down power plants that burn coal Saturday, calling them "outrageous and divorced from reality."

Why it matters: Manchin's state is one of the country's biggest coal and gas producers. The coal-friendly senator and the president struck a deal to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a climate-focused bill, in August.

Catch up quick: Biden said Friday during a speech in California on the CHIPS Act that coal plants cost too much money and that his administration will "be shutting these plants down all across America and having wind and solar."

  • Biden said he recently visited “the site of the largest old coal plant in America” in Massachusetts, which cost "too much money.”
  • “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,” Biden said.

The reaction: Manchin said Biden's comments "ignore the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs."

  • "Comments like these are the reason the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believes he does not understand the need to have an all in energy policy that would keep our nation totally energy independent and secure.
  • "It seems his positions change depending on the audience and the politics of the day. Politicizing our nation’s energy policies would only bring higher prices and more pain for the American people," he added.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended Biden's remarks in a statement released Saturday saying the President's "remarks yesterday have been twisted to suggest a meaning that was not intended; he regrets it if anyone hearing these remarks took offense."

  • " The President was commenting on a fact of economics and technology:  as it has been from its earliest days as an energy superpower, America is once again in the midst of an energy transition," the statement added.
  • "Under President Biden, oil and natural gas production has increased, and we are on track to hit the highest production in our country’s history next year.  He is determined to make sure that this transition helps all Americans in all parts of the country, with more jobs and better opportunities."
  • "President Biden knows that the men and women of coal country built this nation:  they powered its steel mills and factories, kept its homes and schools and offices warm.  They made this the most productive and powerful nation on Earth. "

Yes, but: Manchin said Biden never personally told him of a plan to shut down coal plants and called on the president to issue a public apology.

  • "Being cavalier about the loss of 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," Manchin said.

The big picture: There's been a renewed interest recently in coal because of the global energy crisis brought on by the Ukraine war, Axios' Matt Phillips writes. Coal prices have been rising as a result.

  • The uptake in coal may lead to more electricity-related carbon emissions, which the world has been looking to cut back on, Phillips writes.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout and to include a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

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