Manchin: Natural gas 'has to be' part of clean energy program

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOn The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Climate divides conservative Democrats in reconciliation push MORE (D-W.Va.) on Thursday said natural gas must be included in a clean energy program his fellow Democrats are pushing.

“It has to be,” the key swing vote senator told reporters. “I am all for all of the above. I am all for clean energy, but I am also for producing the amount of energy that we need to make sure that we have reliability.”

The remark is sure to anger climate advocates, who have opposed the use of natural gas in a key program known as the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP). 

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A version of the CEPP drafted by the House would pay power providers to shift towards clean energy sources and penalize companies that don’t move quickly enough. 

The House’s version would exclude natural gas that doesn’t use technology to capture its emissions.

When it’s burned, natural gas emits less planet-warming carbon into the atmosphere than other fossil fuels like coal, but its emissions are still a significant contributor to climate change. 

Manchin on Thursday also reiterated past opposition to paying utilities to make the switch, and instead floated low-interest loans. 

“I am just not for giving public companies who have shareholders, public dollars, free, when I know they’re going to be very profitable at the end whatever we do,” he said. 

“We might front you the money with low-interest loans, but shouldn’t we get it back when the profits start flowing so we don’t have to incur more debt,” he added. 

Manchin is not just a key Senate swing vote. He’s also the chairman of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee that’s expected to craft the upper chamber’s version of the program.