November 16, 2011

Manchin: Coal still significant | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

WASHINGTON — One year into office, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says he is still frustrated over opinions in Washington about coal.

“What I’m very frustrated and upset about is they are moving forward like we have this new fuel and we don’t need coal anymore,” Manchin, D-W.Va., said Tuesday. “Coal is 45 to 50 percent of the energy mix. I’m hoping I’m seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not pushing (coal) just for the sake that we are producing a lot of coal in West Virginia. You just haven’t shown me anything that we can do to replace coal.”

Manchin, who spoke to the Daily Telegraph during a conference call marking his first year in office, said achieving energy independence should be a priority of lawmakers. He points to West Virginia’s vast coal and natural gas reserves, and the emerging Marcellus Shale field in the Mountain State, along with wind energy production in West Virginia.

In order to achieve true energy independence, Manchin said lawmakers must stop demonizing coal and begin developing a comprehensive plan that utilizes all domestic resources, including coal, natural gas, wind and solar.

Manchin also was asked about the chances of a new federal highway bill being passed, whether the so-called “supercommittee” will reach a deficit-cutting agreement before its Nov. 23 deadline, and whether or not he supports President Barack Obama’s re-election.

“The supercommittee — they can’t afford to fail,” Manchin said. “They shouldn’t even have it in their vocabulary. We urge them to go big. They already have a trillion dollars (in cuts) that have been identified. They have to come up with $3 trillion more.”

Manchin said there is some speculation that the committee will seek an extension of the Nov. 23 deadline.

“For me to vote on an extension, you better tell me how close you are,” Manchin said of the committee progress.

Manchin also was asked by the Daily Telegraph about the chances of Congress passing a new a multi-year surface transportation bill necessary to re-authorize a long-term extension of highway construction, highway safety, transit and rail programs. The last highway bill approved by Congress expired in September 2009. The program has continued to operate through temporary extensions. The latest extension will expire in March.

“I think what I’m seeing right now is there seems to be more of a bipartisan buy-in to a two-year (extension),” Manchin said. “I would love to see a six year. But I do believe it will be a short-term buy-in.”

Manchin was non-committal when asked about whether he will support President Barack Obama’s re-election bid, or whether another Democrat should challenge Obama for the Democratic nomination.

Manchin said he would hope that all Americans would support their president — regardless of whether the president is George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

“We’ve got another year before the election,” Manchin said. “We’ve got financial problems. We’ve got energy problems. We’ve got problems across the gambit and yet we keep worrying about the election. That is what the politicians are worrying about is getting re-elected. I want any president to do well. Am I happy with the results (of the Obama administration) — no. And I’m sure the people aren’t happy with the results of Congress. We are at a 9 percent approval rating, and I can’t find the 9 percent who think we are doing something right.”

Manchin said he traveled more than 18,000 miles and visited 45 West Virginia counties during his first term in the U.S. Senate. Manchin also sponsored or co-sponsored 94 legislative measures during the past year.

By:  Charles Owens