Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a Democratic U.S. Senator from the heart of coal country in West Virginia, told Breitbart News exclusively that he was shocked and disappointed in White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn’s anti-coal comments in Europe this week.
Manchin said in the exclusive interview that he hopes that Cohn will allow him to “educate” him more on his uninformed anti-coal standpoint, and that he looks forward to a deeper conversation with the official from President Donald Trump’s White House.
“Yeah, Gary, I don’t know what the hell happened with Gary. Jesus Christ, what’s wrong with these people?” Manchin joked when asked for a response to Cohn’s comments this week that coal “doesn’t make much sense anymore.” Cohn’s comments run counter to President Trump’s position on the issue, too, since Trump said the “war on coal is over” with him as president. Cohn is a former Goldman Sachs banking executive.
Manchin told Breitbart News:
I’d tell Gary to check out the world consumption of coal, and tell India and tell China and tell all these different countries that are sometimes getting electrified for the first time—the first time in a developed nation or developing nation. That’s how the Obama administration was, and I guess it looks like I’m going to have to go and try and work on Gary and give a little history lesson. It’s a base load fuel. It’s simple. We can depend on it 24/7. If we would just develop technology, we’ve got the ability to develop technology that makes using it much, much cleaner. The numbers are there. About 8 billion tons of coal is burned per year in the world. The United States of America burns less than one billion tons of coal a year, so we’re less than one eighth of the world’s consumption. That tells you seven eighths of all the coal in the world is being burnt somewhere else. Four billion tons is being burned in just China alone. They’re all talking about how they’re doing all these wonderful things, but day in and day out they’re using coal because they know it’s uninterruptible, it’s laying right there, and you can use it. But here’s the thing, we can’t even get our allied countries—let’s say Poland, which relies 90 percent or more on coal. Europe, a lot of Europe relies on coal. They need to do what we’ve already done which is scrubbers, low NOx boilers, mercury baghouses. They’re not even using those. Coal is much needed and it’s going to continue to be. Ask Gary how he thinks they make steel, where does the cooking come from? I’m going to give him a history lesson. Hopefully they’ll let me come over and talk to him.
Manchin added that Cohn’s comments were “absolutely not” helpful for President Trump in any way, shape, or form in coal country, and that his anti-coal comments “gives them doubt” in coal mines across West Virginia. Manchin also said that while Cohn’s comments were problematic, it is also true that President Trump has by and large been a major booster for the coal industry outside of this particular comment. He went on to say:
Let me just say: What President Trump has been able to help us with, in coal country and in areas where we’ve been doing the heavy lifting all of these years, is help us stabilize by getting rid of these onerous regulations that were just piled on—piled on. We’re always going to have the Clean Water and the Clean Air Act, everybody is for that, but these regulations from EPA weren’t doing anything except piling on and making it so unbearable that nobody could afford coal. So, he stabilized us—okay? Bringing the market back, the market is what the market is, we understand that too. So people thinking a lot of the coal jobs, we do have them now moving coal in West Virginia, world markets and U.S. markets—we’ll continue to do that—but it makes it very difficult now and I just talked to people who were asking ‘what happened? I thought the Trump people, they were all for us.’ I said, ‘well, that’s one person within President Trump’s team who’s from New York who we’re going to have to educate a little bit better.’
When asked if Cohn, in his view, would be open to such a meeting, Manchin simply replied: “I think he will be.”
The White House has not answered whether Cohn would be open to such a meeting with Manchin. But a White House official did tell Breitbart News after publication of this article that President Trump has been great on coal. Manchin also praised President Trump on coal.
“From rolling back the burdensome regulations that were strangling our domestic energy production to securing healthcare benefits for miners in the latest government funding bill, President Trump always has the best interests of America’s coal workers at the top of his mind,” the White House official told Breitbart News in an email.
In his interview, though, Manchin explained exactly how he would go about teaching the uninformed Cohn about the energy, specifically coal, industry.
“Well first of all you have to have base load—base load is 24/7 uninterrupted,” Manchin said when asked how such a lesson would go. He continued:
You only have two things which are base load, two products—that’s coal and nuclear. When you have the coal, you have 60 days to 90 days of coal power boiling—it’s uninterruptible. You follow me? You boil it and you make electricity. No matter what the weather is, no matter what. And if you have the nuclear rods and nuclear fuel, you’re able to keep nuclear plants going nonstop. Gas will become and it’s pretty much been relied on now as a base load fuel. But think about this: Gas has to be delivered by a gas line. Gas is not right on site. When you build a plant, you’re not going to have gas underground right there to run that plant forever. So you have to bring gas. That can be interruptible. You can have lines break, you can have lines freeze up, you can have a lot of things happen and you can also have—it’s an easy target for terrorists.
He added that Cohn needs to understand this idea of base load energy sources like coal. Manchin said:
Coal, that’s what we call base load. And Gary is going to have to understand, we have to have so much base load here. So just give me a chance to explain the role coal has played in the United States and how we built our country, how we won every war, how we made our own steel because we had our own coal to make it. We didn’t rely on any foreign country for the energy we use to defend ourselves.
Manchin said in the interview that, outside of these Cohn comments, President Trump has been better for coal in his first few months in office than the entire previous eight years of former President Barack Obama. The comment from a Democratic U.S. Senator praising Trump—a Republican—as better already than Obama on one of his core issues is remarkable, in that Trump is winning at least some bipartisan praise despite opposition from many Democrats on a number of other issues.
The Senator went on to say:
I’ve said this, I think we have had a better relationship in three or four or five months and had more conversations on how we can find a balance and move forward and help us with the Trump administration and the president himself than in the last eight years. He has given us some stability. I don’t want dirty water and dirty air. I haven’t met a West Virginian who wants to breathe dirty air or drink dirty water. And there’s a balance between the economy and the environment. We’ve never had the hardcore right or hardcore left trying to find that balance. That’s my problem. They just think they don’t like people mining it, they don’t like the job of mining coal and if you don’t mine it that means you don’t use it and hey that means you don’t need to mine it. So, we were running upstream all the time saying ‘hey guys, we wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t done the heavy lifting.’ So hopefully I’ll be able to explain that to Gary Cohn and he’ll know the role that coal has played and the role that coal needs to play. If you take the 30 percent of energy that coal provides, you take 30 percent out, you’ve got serious problems—you’re going to have rolling brownouts and blackouts. So that’s what I hope to explain to him.
Manchin also said that despite Cohn’s anti-coal comments, he thinks Trump still stands with coal workers nationwide:
I really believe in all my heart that the president still believes in an all-of-the-above energy policy that includes coal—and that we don’t turn our noses to any others they’re trying to develop. We’re always using research and technology to find better ways to use energy that we have and who knows maybe when your children’s or grandchildren’s lifetime it will maybe happen. Commercial hydrogen—I mean, water—those things. I’m all for technology and using the best we have but I’m not for a shoot-myself-in-the-foot and telling the world ‘sure that did feel good and I hope you all do the same as well.’
Manchin noted that countries like China and India and others are not going to give up competitive advantages against the United States—and that he thinks President Trump should use his “negotiating skills” to scrap the Paris climate deal and start over. He said:
They’re not. Their main thing is provide the energy and if they can get a competitive advantage, they’ll take it. That’s where I think these agreements we’re talking about if it says ‘okay, not only are we going to let you catch up, but we’re going to give you a 30-year head start on us and we’re going to lose part of our [industry],’ I’m not going to do that. I thought it was wrong. So I think, Mr. President: Use your negotiating skills, use your understanding of the marketplace and make it competitive and strike the balance between economy and environment. And use the strength of our trading dollar, our trading market, to make sure that the countries that want access to our markets are at least using the technology we’ve already perfects. Make the Polish, make India, make China use the scrubbers, use the low NOx boilers, use the baghouses for mercury. And then work together to develop the technology for CO2. It can be done.
Specifically, on the Paris climate accord, Manchin told Breitbart News that the president should renegotiate it so it does not disadvantage the United States. Manchin said, when asked where he stands on the Paris deal:
First of all, I’m saying this: The technology has to be proven, commercial technology before you’re telling us to meet certain things. If the president wants to sit down and I believe they would renegotiate it—he’s good at negotiations—then renegotiate it because it is not good for the United States of America and puts us at a disadvantage and gives everyone else much more of an advantage in getting our markets and taking our market share. That’s not who we are. Now, I know we have to lead the way and we have led the way if we can just get them to use what we’ve already perfected. In China and in India, it’s not CO2 killing people. It’s particulates. It’s SO2. We’ve removed about all of the SO2 out of the market in America. We’ve cleaned up the environment more in 20 years than has ever been done in history. So I would say, ‘Mr. President, sit down and renegotiate and tell them you’re not going to put the United States at an unfair disadvantage’ which is what the Paris Accord did the way it was written.
Manchin added that the key thing in climate agreements that a president needs to ensure is that the United States has no disadvantage as a result.
“I think in all those agreements on the climate the thing is we shouldn’t put the United States of America at a disadvantage,” Manchin said. “We’ve done a lot. If we can get carbon capture and use the waste from carbon when you solidify it as a fuel—there’s so much more, hopefully, with carbon capture sequestration. President Obama said ‘if you want to build a power plant, go ahead and build it, we’ll break you.’ He knew it wasn’t economically or commercially feasible to do that, unless you had enhanced oil recovery where you could take the carbon you sequestered put it in the ground and push up more oil to pay for it, it made no sense. So if you weren’t in an area where you had oil, and you could recover more oil, then it didn’t make sense. It made it very difficult. The thing on any of these agreements, giving China or India a leap forward, or giving any of these others a leap home, let’s all move and use the technology that we can develop together to make sure that the whole world is on a competitive cycle, not making the United States way up or putting onerous conditions on the United States or giving other countries 20 or 30 years to get to the same level where we are.”