Joe Manchin Targeted by Big Oil in Push Against Build Back Better
Coal-country Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia shelved (maybe killed) President Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) Act when he refused to support the package as written. Manchin cited concerns about inflation and the federal deficit as reasons, but findings by VICE show that Big Oil ran a sophisticated Facebook campaign that encouraged the senator to kill the bill.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) ran an ad campaign asking West Virginians to thank him for being a champion of American energy. The ads spread like wildfire: they were viewed 1.225 million times, even though the state only has 1.219 million registered voters.
Al Jazeera: Should fossil fuel advertising be regulated?, October 20, 2021.
Why This Matters
President Biden's BBB was key to achieving the Administration's environmental and social goals for the country. If enacted, it would have been the largest environmental legislation in US history. Without it, achieving the targets of 100% clean electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050 seems nearly impossible.
Manchin says he's not opposed to the bill's climate and energy measures, and the Biden Administration believes he may negotiate and support a different legislative package.
Although West Virginia is highly vulnerable to flooding from climate change, the API used Facebook targeting to stir distrust in Manchin's constituents over the fears of inflation and loss of mining jobs. Misinformation spread across social media platforms like Facebook fractures trust in science and increases political polarization. As reported in Front Lines, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) supported BBB because it aligns with their "very own Principles for Energy Transition." The bills would help fund benefits for victims of coal workers' pneumoconiosis, employ coal miners who have lost their jobs, and financially penalize anti-union employers.
Manchin opposed the BBB as written, but says he supports some components. He has acknowledged that the transition away from fossil fuels is already "well underway." But it's unclear where he'll land in the legislative discussion to come. One thing is certain: Until climate disinformation can be rectified, the Biden administration will likely continue its struggle to push environmental legislation forward.
Greenpeace: Uncovering polluters' offsetting scams, October 26, 2021.
Al Jazeera: How dangerous is climate misinformation?, April 22, 2021.
VICE: The Fossil Fuel Industry Wants You to Think It's Solving Climate Change, July 14, 2021.