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Climate activists participate in a demonstration

Climate activists participate in a march from Freedom Plaza to Capitol Hill on October 15, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Biden Urged to Reject 'Preemptive Giveaway' to Manchin on Destructive Oil Projects

"Approving lots of new fossil fuel projects in exchange for some clean energy funding is completely bonkers and will make the climate crisis worse," warned one environmentalist.

Jake Johnson

Environmentalists implored President Joe Biden on Thursday not to go through with a reported ploy to approve climate-damaging fossil fuel projects in a bid to secure Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's support for limited renewable energy funding, warning that such a deal would be a net negative for the planet.

Mitch Jones, managing director of policy at Food & Water Watch, said that "there is abundant evidence that incentivizing cleaner energy technology while also advancing new dirty energy projects does not reduce climate pollution."

"Manchin has proven time and time again to be a bad actor at the negotiating table."

"This has been the strategy over the past decade, and it has been an abysmal failure," he added.

Jones also argued that Manchin (D-W.Va.)—a close ally of the fossil fuel industry who continues to profit from his family's coal business—has repeatedly demonstrated that he can't be trusted to uphold his side of an agreement, alluding to his conduct during negotiations over the Build Back Better package.

"The fact that Biden is considering a preemptive giveaway to Sen. Manchin is even more alarming," said Jones. "Manchin has proven time and time again to be a bad actor at the negotiating table. There is no reason to believe he has any intention of making any sort of deal on clean energy—even the very modest one the administration is proposing."

"The science is clear: To maintain reasonable hope of achieving a livable planet for future generations, we must halt new fossil fuel development now," Jones noted. "Modest tax breaks for cleaner energy technologies simply won't do the job by themselves."

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is dangling support for several prominent oil and gas projects—including the Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline in West Virginia—as well as new drilling off the coast of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico "to see if their approval could help" win Manchin's backing for an emerging reconciliation package, even if it means ditching the president's campaign vow to prohibit all new drilling on public lands and waters.

According to the Post, administration officials have specifically "raised the prospect of allowing a controversial oil project on Alaska's North Slope to proceed," even while admitting approval of that and other projects may not be enough to assuage the West Virginia Democrat.

"Known as Willow, ConocoPhillips' multibillion-dollar venture faces stiff opposition from environmentalists and some Native Alaskans," the Post noted. "On its own, the Willow project is expected to produce 629 million barrels of oil over its three-decade life span. Early federal estimates said the project would generate about 260 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the rough equivalent of 66 coal plants, but recent figures are even higher."

Climate advocates argued the trade-off that the administration is considering—even if it means winning some long-sought and badly needed renewable energy funding—would undercut efforts to slash U.S. carbon emissions, which have inflicted massive damage at home and overseas.

One study published earlier this year suggested that rich countries, including the U.S., must cut off all oil and gas production by 2034 if the world is to have a 50% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the century.

"I'm not sure we can still claim a winning 'climate deal' if climate-killing fossil fuel projects like the Mountain Valley pipeline are given the green light," said Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Fossil fuels should be the redline."

Peter Hart, national communications manager at Food & Water Watch, added that "approving lots of new fossil fuel projects in exchange for some clean energy funding is completely bonkers and will make the climate crisis worse."

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