By Ben Geman - 11/08/10 05:47 PM EST
“Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.”
The story later adds that “Manchin's switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel.”
Proposals to use coal for transportation fuels in recent years — right now coal is the nation’s largest electricity source but isn’t used for transportation — haven’t taken flight. The idea has long been the bête noire of environmental groups, who fear runaway greenhouse gas emissions.
Manchin has run away from President Obama’s climate change policies, and is a strong backer of his home state’s coal industry.
Republican strategists nonetheless cast doubt on the idea of Manchin joining the GOP. “It would probably be unlikely since the Senate is not in a 50-50 split and he doesn’t have expanded leverage,” one strategist tells E2.
A call to Manchin’s office was not immediately returned Monday. Fox quotes a “Manchin advisor” downplaying the idea without completely shutting the door on a future switch.
“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” the advisor tells Fox. “Now, if that doesn't work and Democrats aren't receptive, I don't know what possibilities that leaves open.”