President Joe Biden’s remarks on closing coal-fired power plants came under fire on Saturday from a significant conservative Senate Democrat.
At a Carlsbad, California, speech promoting his administration’s economic initiatives on Friday, Biden said: “No one is building new coal plants because they can’t rely on it, even if they have all the coal guaranteed for the duration of the facility.”
The remark cast light on a touchy political issue for Biden and his fellow Democrats – inflation near four-decade peaks – that voters say is their top concern. Higher energy costs following Russia’s war in Ukraine have helped lift prices, along with the economic rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pennsylvania, where Biden was scheduled to campaign later on Saturday, is both a major producer and consumer of coal. Tuesday’s midterms will determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress and hinge on races like the one for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania.
Senator Joe Manchin, who represents coal-producing West Virginia, said on Saturday Biden’s remarks were “outrageous and divorced from reality” while also dismissing “the severe economic pain the American people are feeling because of rising energy costs.”
Later on Saturday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the comment was intended to highlight the country’s energy transition.
As part of his long-standing strategy to combat climate change and cut carbon emissions, Biden has long advocated for the US to move away from fossil fuels. Just two days after the congressional elections, he intends to travel to Egypt for the COP27 climate summit.
A percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the power sector, and Biden ran his campaign on a promise to reduce net emissions to zero by 2035.
As utilities phase out outdated coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas, solar, and wind power, a shift motivated by falling prices for these sources and state and federal subsidies for renewable energy, U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector have already fallen dramatically in recent years.