Biden comments on coal-fired plants slammed by Manchin ahead of U.S. midterms

JOLIET, Ill., Nov. 5 (Reuters) – Comments by President Joe Biden about closing coal power plants days before crucial midterm elections drew fire on Saturday from a key conservative Senate Democrat.

“No one is building new coal plants because they can’t count on it, even if they have all the coal guaranteed for the rest of their existence from the plant,” Biden said Friday at an event drawing attention to the economic policies of his administration in Carlsbad, California.

“We’re going to be shutting down these plants all over America and getting wind and solar.”

The comment has shed light on a sensitive political issue for Biden and his fellow Democrats – inflation near four-decade highs – which voters say is their main concern. Higher energy costs following Russia’s war in Ukraine have helped drive up prices, along with the economic rebound from the COVID pandemic.

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Pennsylvania, where Biden was scheduled to campaign later Saturday, is a major producer and consumer of coal. Tuesday’s midterms will determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress and rely on races like the one for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

Senator Joe Manchin, who represents coal-producing West Virginia, said Biden’s comments were “outrageous and divorced from reality” while also dismissing “the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of energy costs increasing.”

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“Comments like these are why the American people are losing trust in President Biden and instead believe that he does not understand the need to have a comprehensive energy policy that would keep our nation fully independent and energy security,” Manchin said in a statement. “His views seem to change depending on the audience and the politics of the day.”

Biden has long made moving the United States from fossil fuels part of his program to address climate change and reduce carbon emissions. He plans to travel to the COP27 climate summit in Egypt just two days after the congressional elections.

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The power industry is the source of a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gases and Biden campaigned on a promise to cut net emissions to zero by 2035.

US carbon emissions from the power sector have already fallen significantly in recent years as utilities retire old coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas, solar and wind power – a shift that is being driven by a reduction in prices for these sources and state and federal incentives for renewable energy.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Edited by Daniel Wallis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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