Clean energy is unlikely to replace all of the lost coal and fossil fuel jobs in West Virginia, he added. But it can help start to diversify the state’s economy. It will also make West Virginia more attractive to industries and outside businesses, such as automakers – who have increasingly made their own climate commitments and, therefore, are unlikely to invest where clean energy is scarce – which will boost economic development.
“West Virginia is behind the eight ball because we haven’t done much in terms of developing and deploying clean energy,” said Richardson. “You really have to go really fast. “
Whether West Virginia will reap the benefits of clean energy opportunities largely depends on state leaders in Charleston and Washington, said Van Nostrand of the University of West Virginia. In this regard, there have been stopping gestures in favor of sustainability, he added, but the state lags behind most others, as well as the latest climate science. . In August, a landmark United Nations report warned that the consequences of climate change, including severe weather conditions that are already wreaking havoc, will worsen dramatically this century if humanity fails to bring its emissions under control.
Also critical: Ensuring climate action reaches communities of color in West Virginia. The state is over 90% white, but African Americans were nonetheless a significant part of the coal workforce, said Pam Nixon, community organizer for the Charleston, West Virginia chapter of the NAACP.
As technology advanced in the industry, black workers were generally not screened for training opportunities; when layoffs became commonplace, they were much more likely than their white peers to be made redundant.
“When Manchin and others talk about not leaving the charcoal burners behind, they usually don’t recognize that the black charcoal makers were left behind years ago,” she said. “We have to make sure that this trend does not continue. Blacks and Latinos in West Virginia, we need to be seated at the table. “
Manchin, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, was instrumental in the two-party $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure program, passed in August by the Senate and awaiting approval from bedroom. This bill includes some $ 120 billion for clean energy and climate resilience projects, as well as $ 21 billion to clean up abandoned mines and cover leaking oil and gas wells.
Experts say these arrangements may be a boon to West Virginia, but they won’t meet the state’s needs. Nationally, climatologist Michael E. Mann called the bill “far from meeting the moment,” arguing that it does nothing to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
A separate and larger bill, hailed as the most comprehensive climate legislation in U.S. history, promises stronger investments in renewable energy. But Manchin said he opposed the measure, citing its price of $ 3.5 trillion.
The Manchin Senate office did not respond to an email request for comment.
Not wanting to wait, some in the state of the senator take matters into their own hands.