Just in case anyone was wondering about the RV Industry Association’s priorities, all questions were dispelled yesterday, when it bestowed its “National Legislative Award” on Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. RVIA president Craig Kirby justified the trade group’s misfeasance by asserting that Manchin “recognizes that investments in outdoor recreation are vital to our economic, emotional and societal well-being” before adding, in an apparent non sequitur, that Manchin’s “home state sports stunning public lands that bring tourists from around the nation.”
While Manchin bears no responsibility for West Virginia’s stunning public lands, he very much shares responsibility for their ongoing degradation from coal mining. Despite being the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin continues to rake in the Senate’s largest campaign contributions from oil, gas and coal industries, and has a long history of serving their interests. He also has profited for decades from his stake in Enersystems, a supplier of “coal” to a highly polluting power plant near Fairmont, WV.
(Why the quotation marks around “coal”? Because the stuff Enersystems shovels into the Grant Town Power Plant is just one step above peat, a highly polluting mix of low grade coal, clay and rock contemptuously dismissed in the trade as “gob,” short for “garbage of bituminous.”)
But Manchin’s self-serving position in the Senate goes far, far beyond how he makes his money. It’s fair to say that no one person has done more to derail this country’s already fractious efforts at dealing with global warming than Manchin, who single-handedly blocked the Biden administration’s Build Back Better Act and its $550 billion in proposed climate spending, much of it to phase out fossil fuels over the next decade. Yet despite his glaring conflicts of interest, the West Virginian justified his obstructionism by claiming a higher purpose, insisting that the nation would be better off if climate legislation had bipartisan support–and so he, Joe Manchin, would turn his energies toward winning that Republican buy-in.
And so there matters stood–the Build Back Better Act in suspended animation–for weeks on end, as the rest of the Democratic party tip-toed around Manchin and Manchin supposedly showed them how this legislating thing is supposed to work. Hands across the aisle and all that, even though the GOP has long made it abundantly clear that the only hand it’s going to show has its middle finger extended. Then again, that wasn’t really the issue, anyway.
It therefore came as no surprise that yesterday–yes, the same day that RVIA gave Manchin its “National Legislative Award”–was also the day that the Washington Times reported that the so-called bipartisan talks were finished. Six weeks and no deal. The Democrats’ self-imposed Memorial Day deadline to get some action on Build Back Better come and gone, with nothing to show for it. The chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had run out the clock, and even though the Democrats are now scrambling for a renewed effort and hoping they can get something done by August 1, they still have not come up with a way to get around the obdurate gob man.
Don’t expect RVIA to weigh in on that issue, however. It’s just happy that Manchin has been supporting much-needed maintenance on public lands–you know, roads and campgrounds for the RVs its members are manufacturing. For RVIA, “outdoor recreation” starts and ends with the wheels. The carbon dioxide-laced air we breathe, the forest fires caused by global warming, the increasingly turbulent moisture-laden atmosphere that produces cataclysmic rains, the years of drought that have sucked the West dry–all the consequences of fossil fuel burning that Manchin continues to protect are for someone else to worry about.
“Economic, emotional and societal well-being”? RVIA, you’ve got to be kidding.