Joe Biden's climate change agenda is hanging by a thread. And Senator Joe Manchin -- the Democratic senator from West Virginia -- holds that thread. Manchin wants Biden to ditch his climate change legislation. Paul Krugman writes:
You might be tempted to view this impasse as an indictment of America’s wildly unrepresentative political system, which effectively allows the interests of a small state — West Virginia has substantially fewer residents than the borough of Brooklyn — to dominate national concerns. But it’s actually worse than that: Manchin appears ready to veto policies that would be in the interests of his own constituents.
West Virginia's economy used to be built on coal:
There was indeed a time when the West Virginia economy ran on coal. Back in 1982, when Joe Manchin began his political career as a member of the State Legislature, wages and benefits paid to coal miners accounted for 16 percent of the state’s total labor income.
But times and things have changed:
Coal is far less important to the state than it used to be, and its significance is doomed to dwindle no matter what we do about climate change.
The industry’s payroll shrank rapidly during the Reagan and Bush I administrations, falling to around 7 percent of compensation by the mid-1990s. It has declined even more since then, but basically West Virginia stopped being coal country a generation ago.
And West Virginia is vulnerable to climate change:
Climate change is bringing more severe weather in general, including more heavy rain — and West Virginia turns out to be extremely vulnerable to flooding, in part because of the damage done by past coal mining.
John Denver sang that, in West Virginia, dark and dusty were "painted on the sky." When I was very young, my family lived for a while in West Virginia. That is my memory of the place. The rivers were dark, too. Riverboats -- with paddle wheels -- used to push barges filled with coal up and down the Kanawha River.
Denver would have you believe that West Virginia is "almost heaven." The Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful. But West Virginians were poor. Life there was far from heaven. It's still that way.