Does Manchin Own Biden on Energy Policy?

It’s understandable that, when the Senate Dems need 50 of their 51 members to vote on something for it to pass, Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have a lot more influence than they should. But it has been maddening to see, on the one hand, corrupt coal baron Joe Manchin using that power to advance his and corporate fossil fuelers’ interests as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee while, on the other hand, President Joe Biden says nothing publicly to counter him.

Over a year ago Manchin effectively took over FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This happened right after a 3-2 vote by the then-Democratic majority of commissioners to strengthen FERC’s analysis of environmental justice and greenhouse gas emissions impacts when a methane/fracked gas company applies for a permit to build a new pipeline, an LNG export terminal and/or other gas infrastructure. Manchin and Republicans were able to get one of the three Democrats, Willie Phillips, to reverse his vote in support of that new policy.

When Biden renominated FERC chair Richard Glick last fall for a new term after his existing term expired, Manchin refused to even hold a hearing on the nomination, and he is now gone. Who did Biden choose to replace him, on an “Acting Chair” basis? Willie Phillips.

And an article on Tuesday in E&E News reported: “Manchin is relaunching his quest to overhaul the nation’s permitting laws by reintroducing his proposal that capsized last year. The West Virginia Democrat’s bill largely matches the language and provisions of a negotiated measure that failed to advance in the last Congress.” A news report on the same day reported that Biden is supporting this mainly regressive legislation.

The Biden team apparently thinks that staying quiet about Manchin’s outrageous abuse of power—or worse, giving support to it—for the next year and a half is going to help him and the Democrats win on November 5, 2024.

Is this approach going to lead to the needed, massive voter turnout of young people, those seriously concerned about the climate emergency, those in low-wealth and people of color communities most directly impacted negatively by our fossil fuel economy? No, it is not. It will do the opposite.

I’m sure Biden and the Dems will win more votes of young people, those climate concerned, and people of color than the Republicans, but the key issue is turnout. Without a massive turnout from those and other constituencies, the MAGA Republicans could end up continuing to control at least one house of Congress, and it might be worse, maybe much worse.

Now is the time when the Biden Administration needs to feel the heat from the grassroots and those who get it on how serious the climate emergency is. Supporting Manchin’s outrages is not just very bad for environmental justice communities and the planet but a very bad re-election strategy.

Fortunately, the climate justice movement is mobilizing to keep the heat on Biden, Manchin, Republicans and the fossil fuel industry. Two weeks from now, on the morning of May 18 in Washington, DC, there will be a Stop Manchin’s FERC action organized by a number of groups. From June 8-11 there will be local distributed actions around the country to End the Era of fossil fuels. There’s a Stop Cop City week of action in Atlanta June 24-30 against deforestation and police militarization. And in September there will be a major mobilization to support UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who is organizing a global Climate Ambition Summit at the United Nations in New York City. Countries taking part will be those which have upped their climate ambition to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

Albert Camus once wrote, “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” (The Rebel, 1951) Still true, still needed, much needed, right now.

Ted Glick works with Beyond Extreme Energy and is president of 350NJ-Rockland. Past writings and other information, including about Burglar for Peace and 21st Century Revolution, two books published by him in 2020 and 2021, can be found at He can be followed on Twitter at Read other articles by Ted.