Joe Manchin Tanks Solar and EV Stocks With His Build Back Better Bombshell

Joe Manchin Tanks Solar and EV Stocks With His Build Back Better Bombshell
Photo: Shawn Thew, Getty Images

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is apparently on a mission to see just how much damage he can singularly inflict on the clean energy industry. Stock prices for major renewable energy technology companies were on the decline Monday following the senator’s weekend surprise announcement that he was tapping out on efforts to pass the $US2 ($3) trillion Build Back Better Act despite months of negotiations.

Solar stocks were particularly hard hit. Sunrun, the world’s largest residential solar installer, saw its stock fall 12 per cent at its lowest points while competitor SunPower dropped almost 10%. Two other solar firms, First Solar and Solar Edge, each saw their stocks drop around 8 per cent.

It’s not just solar stocks taking a hit either. Electric vehicle makers, which would have benefited from favourable tax incentives in the bill, also saw declines across the board. Rivian, which recently went public with a valuation of nearly $US90 ($127) billion, saw its stock fall nearly 7 per cent. Tesla stock was also down nearly 4 per cent.

News of the deflated stock prices comes on the heels of Manchin’s recent proclamation that he would, in effect, vote to kill Democrats’ Build Back Better Act that had passed the House.

“If I can’t go home and explain it [the Build Back Better Act] I can’t vote for it,” Manchin told Fox’s, Bret Baier. “And I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I just can’t.” When asked by Baier if that meant Manchin was finished considering the proposal, Machin nodded saying, “this is a no.”

The senator went on to release a statement citing swelling debt, inflation, and risks to the reliability of the U.S. energy grids as key reasons for his departure. (To be clear, these concerns are largely bunk.) The bill, with its $US550 ($774) billion in initiatives to clean up the grid and protect the climate, would’ve helped kickstart a clean energy economy and create millions of jobs. It also contained provisions that would’ve strengthened grid reliability.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders publicly criticised Manchin as did Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Sanders also said the Senate should vote on the legislation as is to test if Manchin is really ready to vote no. (The AP reported that others lawmakers would also like an up or down vote.) Majority Leader Chuck Schumer meanwhile penned a letter on Monday saying the Senate would still vote on the bill in the new year.

Manchin’s sudden bomb also reportedly came as a shock to the White House, which released a statement just hours later describing the senator’s move as a “sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position.”

“Weeks ago, Senator Manchin committed to the President, at his home in Wilmington, to support the Build Back Better framework that the President then subsequently announced,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki wrote. “Senator Manchin pledged repeatedly to negotiate on finalising that framework “in good faith.”

There are still avenues for a narrower Build Back Better Act, though if the Senate passed some version that Manchin approved of, the House would have to redo its vote. If it had passed, the legislation would have represented the first major climate change initiative for the U.S., with $US320 ($450) billion in expanded tax credits for renewable energies and electric vehicles and another $US105 ($148) billion set aside for boosting climate change resilience. Another $US110 ($155) billion would have been used to improve U.S. renewable energy tech supply chains.

The version of Build Back Better that Manchin couldn’t bring himself to support was, in reality, a shell of its former self. Over the past year, Manchin singlehandedly managed to derail the most surefire avenue to reduce emissions — known as a Clean Electricity Standard — and gut key methane reduction provisions. Manchin even voiced his opposition to a $US12,500 ($17,584) EV tax credit that would incentivise drivers to purchase union-made electric vehicles. Whether a slightly less climate-friendly version of the Build Back Better Act passes remains to be seen, but it’s clear the fallout from Sunday’s announcement is reverberating.