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Bipartisan progress among Manchin’s goals

WHEELING — United States Sen. Joe Manchin takes over as Senate Energy Committee chairman today — a post that could empower West Virginia’s voice as the new Biden administration sets forth its energy policies.

The moderate Manchin, D-W.Va., also could provide deciding votes in an evenly divided Senate in the coming months.

He indicated, though, he will be reluctant to use that position for power in the Senate.

“There are people who only think about having the power to do this and that,” Manchin said Tuesday. “I’ve never looked at power from that standpoint because I’ve seen people abuse power. Just a lot of harm has been done by the abuse of it.

“I look at it, if you are in a position where you truly have the ability to unite your country in public service, bring the country together in a bipartisan way,” he added. “I’m going to try and fight to keep the Republic. We should be working for the people and considering all the people. I don’t know how you can do that unless you do that in a non-partisan, compromising way. That’s who I am.”

The three-term senator hopes there will be opportunities he can bring to West Virginia, the vast majority of which is made up of rural communities. Those living in rural America account for about 20 percent of the U.S. population, and Manchin said this area deserves special considerations and offsets.

Atop the list of needs for this area, he mentioned, is the expansion of broadband internet access

“We shouldn’t be in the 21st century and have places in this country that don’t have cell service, or broadband internet,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Manchin referenced former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call in the 1930s to extend electricity to everyone in America.

“Why can’t everyone in the nation have access to the internet?” he asked.

Manchin hinted there are some large federal projects perhaps on their way to West Virginia.

“There is money coming, there is,” he said. “I just want to make sure we’re ready, but it’s coming.”

Manchin will be sworn in as Energy Committee chairman today, and then will lead his first meeting — a discussion of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s nomination as Secretary of Energy.

“I know Jennifer. We worked together as governors,” Manchin said. “She is reasonable and responsible. She might have a different outlook than I do, but I’ve always found Jennifer very good to work with — very understanding and very pragmatic. I feel like it will be a very good working relationship.”

He said the committee’s first move will be to determine a “climate base line.” This will mean determining where in the world pollutants are the greatest, what the biggest sources of pollution are, where they are coming from and how they can be mitigated.

“That is what we have to be geared to because we want to be energy independent in America,” Manchin said. “We want to use all the sources we have to produce energy, but we want to do it in the cleanest fashion with new technology — creating new technology we can export around the world to help the rest of the countries clean up their climates.”

And there is no reason that new technology can’t be produced in West Virginia, he said.

“The United States has not held on to its manufacturing jobs, and this is a chance for us to bring back those jobs,” Manchin said.

“There is going to be new technology needed to produce the next level of carbon level sequestration, and we should be producing it in West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky and Ohio.”

He said most everybody in Washington understands climate change to be one of the biggest priorities of the Biden administration.

“Climate change is real. It is happening, and as humans, hopefully we can do something that can hopefully help planet earth,” Manchin said. “We have that responsibility, and we have the responsibility to create the new technologies to do that.”

He doesn’t expect to “clash” with the Biden administration on its energy policies.

“We might have some different points of view and disagreements, but you just work through those,” Manchin said. “That is why I want the facts. I just don’t want people just to come in with their ideas, thoughts and whatever their theories might be. I want us to work on the same set of facts. Just getting everyone on the same page is the most important thing we can do.”

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