Manchin standing up to Obama

If President Barack Obama loses his bid to place another anti-coal zealot in a relatively high position in government, he will have one more reason to dislike U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin, an outspoken critics of Obama on issues such as energy, revealed Wednesday he will vote against Senate confirmation of presidential nominee Ronald Binz. That may scuttle the nomination of Binz to head the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Binz has made no secret of his desire to shut down coal-fired power plants. While on Colorado’s public utilities commission, he was able to pressure some power companies into doing that.

Manchin’s decision to vote “no” could be decisive because Binz’s nomination has to be forwarded to the full Senate from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which the Mountain State lawmaker is a member. The panel includes 12 Democrats and 10 Republicans.

Assuming all 10 GOP members vote against Binz – which is likely – Manchin’s “no” vote would deadlock the committee.

Blocking the Binz confirmation would be a victory for friends of reasonably priced electricity, but only a small one. In all probability, Obama would find someone else, perhaps less committed publicly to shutting down coal-fired power plants but still an ally in the White House campaign to that end.

Manchin is to be commended for being a steadfast ally of the coal industry, and thus the tens of millions of Americans who depend on it for reasonably priced electricity.

But the senator and his relatively few allies on Capitol Hill need to make more of their peers understand what Obama’s war on coal means. It means much higher electric bills for many homeowners and businesses.

Until more senators stop supporting their political party’s president blindly and act in the best interests of their constituents, small victories like that Manchin may be about to win will be no more than irritants in the Oval Office.