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Some greens are having a hard time understanding Manchin's position on the CEPP provisions of the reconciliation bill, and how it could possibly be in the best interests of his constituents to fight it. The reason is that the CEPP is structured to inflict most of the pain of decarbonizing on West Virginia and minimize it on other states.

To simplify, consider the per capita CO2 emissions of just two states: California and West Virginia. Per Wikipedia, for 2017 those were:

Per Capita Emissions
California 9.1 tons
West Virginia 49.9 tons

Now consider three separate potential federal carbon reduction policies. Each policy imposes a sizable penalty on states that don't meet a given target, and a sizable incentive to states that do meet the target. However, the targets differ as follows:

Policy A - States must reduce per capita emissions to 15 tons or less. The target is a standard that California already meets, and that West Virginia cannot meet in any relevant time frame. This Policy rewards states that already have low emissions without requiring them to do anything.

Policy B - States must reduce per capita emissions to 2% less than current levels, each year. The target is a standard that both California and West Virginia can meet. Moreover, it's a standard that West Virginia can meet without losing its competitive advantage in electricity prices, because it can reduce emissions by switching from coal to natural gas.

Policy C - States must reduce per capita emissions by a half ton per year. The target is a standard that West Virginia can meet easily, but that California would have a lot of trouble meeting. This Policy rewards states that currently have high emissions, and can thus achieve bigger absolute cuts without high costs.


Note that all three of these Policies could be designed to have roughly the same total reduction in carbon emissions, depending on where each target is set. They differ primarily on who bears the costs. Note that because most of the emissions are coming from the dirtiest states, you can get a huge amount of emissions reductions just by getting the dirty states to be somewhat cleaner - perhaps more than you would by getting the already-clean states to become super clean.

The CEPP was mostly a "Policy A" type proposal. The 'target' was a proportionate renewables energy increase, but one that many blue states are already meeting and that many poorly insolated and low-wind red states (like West Virginia) will never be able to meet. There are few ways of structuring a carrot/stick approach to carbon reductions that would have been worse for West Virginia - the only reductions in carbon that count are renewables (not efficiency or switching from coal to NG), and the penalty/reward structure takes money away from the utilities that most need to start switching and gives it to the utilities that are already doing the switching (and thus have the least need for incentives in order to get over the target).

Manchin has advocated for a "Policy C" approach. West Virginia could reduce its absolute amount of emissions enormously by switching from coal to NG, and Manchin wants any climate bill to reward absolute emissions reductions rather than setting a hard requirement for particular technologies. The CEPP would have taken a ton of money out of West Virginia and sent to California (and other already-cleaner states). There might have been a middle-ground "Policy B" for the CEPP, but that would (again) have required having the program accept conversion from coal to natural gas as a carbon emission that qualified for incentives (or avoiding penalties). Apparently that's a hard 'no' from climate activists, so that possible deal died on the table.

It's easy to see why the progressive caucus wanted to insist on the specific CEPP framework that Manchin objected to. Their voters are mostly in states that have lower emissions. West Virginia is filled mostly with rural conservatives. So of course for any given amount of carbon reduction, they want the costs to fall mostly on states that currently have high emissions, and the incentives to run mostly to states that are already cleaning up. But while pushing as much pain on West Virginia in order to minimize pain in California might make progressive voters in California happy, it's not a good way to actually get Manchin's vote.

Albaby
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