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No. of Recommendations: 4
The total state and federal budget for West Virginia is about 20 billion. We could probably double or triple that number fairly easily - almost a rounding error - and site a bunch of new solar panel manufacturing plants there, along with generous outreach, recruitment, education and training programs, if that's what it takes.

Why wouldn't Manchin fight for something like that?


A few reasons. First, and trivially, it's not as easy as you suggest to just get tens and tens of billions allocated to your state - otherwise everyone would be doing it. While in the context of a huge spending bill it seems like that's a small amount, you're talking about a transfer of about $40,000 per person to West Virginia out of the federal budget. There will be lots of pushback.

Second, there's no reason to think that solar panel manufacturing plants would actually survive in West Virginia if you built them. There's a whole lot that's necessary for large scale manufacturing that can be competitive in a globally traded product - you need to have the workforce, the logistics and distribution systems, and a host of other things to make it work. We haven't been able to have solar panel manufacturing rise to scale in other places in the U.S. that are much better positioned than WV - closer to ports, closer to heavily insolated markets, an existing manufacturing workforce. It's facile to think that just stroking a check can make an industry work in a particular part of the world.

Third, it's not just about the coal mining industry. Sure, that's a big part of the WV economy - only about 2% of the labor force, but close to 10% of state GDP. But more than that, the entire power generation system of the state runs almost entirely on coal. Roughly 92% of electrical power is generated by coal - a similarly high proportion of non-traded power (ie. industrial plants) also run on coal. WV has terrible solar and wind resources, and no real access to hydro - which makes renewables a very costly (and perhaps infeasible) alternative.

That's a big part of why WV has one of the highest per-capita rates of carbon consumption in the country, behind only Wyoming. So it's not just the loss of the coal industry - any climate program that tries to penalize fossil fuel use is going to devastate West Virginia because they use so much coal, not just mine it.

Manchin almost certainly knows that with so many other priorities jostling for money within the bill, it would be a fools errand to try to get enough money going just to West Virginia to compensate for the outsized damage. Much more feasible to water down the climate provisions so that they don't kick WV in the coal nuggets.

Albaby
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