November 10, 2022 - As was the case with Hillary Clinton before him, it seems as though President Joe Biden did not think through the way his words might be interpreted when he talked about coal-fired power plants, saying last week during an event in California “We’re going to be shutting these (coal-fired) plants down all across America and having wind and solar … (and) also providing tax credits to help families buy energy-efficient appliances.”
While it may be the case that Biden did not intend the manner in which his remarks became “twisted,” as his press secretary claimed, he cannot unring the bell — even if he rang it in California.
Of course our nation’s energy economy must continue its transition to a balanced, all-of-the-above mix of fossil fuels and renewables — we all know that. But the reality is that transition will not fully happen anytime soon, and in the meantime, the president of the United States should not be threatening the livelihood of workers who currently provide more than 20% of the baseload power generation for our nation.
Sen. Joe Manchin was right to quickly condemn the president for his irresponsible comments.
“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 president owes these incredible workers an immediate and public apology and it is time he learn a lesson that his words matter and have consequences.”
A public apology is unlikely. But what Biden and others in Washington, D.C., do owe those whose livelihood depends on coal is the knowledge that they will not be sacrificed. They deserve to know there will be training available should their plant shut down, new job opportunities to replace what was lost, and that they’ll get the support needed to weather the change. They deserve to know this transition will take place compassionately and as gradually as is reasonable, rather than all at once on some artificially set date.
As with any worker, they deserve respect for the job they do. The president should remember that moving forward.