Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has a catchphrase that sums up his approach to combating climate change: “innovation, not elimination.” It’s a marriage of near-rhyme with complete nonsense. Innovation ultimately begets elimination. (Anyone reading this on a BlackBerry?)
But that “ultimately” counts for a lot; the time left to eliminate greenhouse-gas emissions and the things that emit them is short. And innovation is easier to sell than elimination — especially in a state synonymous with coal mining. Manchin’s soundbite neatly captures the problem of incumbency: those embedded hard assets, economics and politics that resist decarbonization. The issue dogged this year’s UN climate conference and negotiations over President Joe Biden’s reconciliation package now sitting in the Senate.