“What Coronavirus has done is pour gasoline on every slow-rolling crisis that we’ve been experiencing in the United States and set it on fire for everyone all at once.” —Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
That description is spot on. Republican lawmakers and the Trump administration see this pandemic as a perfect opportunity to shovel money at large corporations, including the fossil fuel industry. Did they succeed?
Two Ways The Coronavirus Stimulus Package Offered Freebies For Oil & Gas
The economic stimulus plan initially put forth by Senator Mitch McConnell and the Trump administration sought two different ways to bail out the fossil fuel industry:
- Giving the companies low-interest loans (which they might not even need to pay back) as part of a massive corporate ‘slush fund’
- Buying hundreds of millions of barrels of oil to put in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which would deliver immediate relief to the industry
Both options were unacceptable, and opponents let them know.
More than 15,000 Food & Water Action supporters signed petitions demanding Congress not bail out the fossil fuel industry. Advocates in New York recently sent a letter asking Congress to take care of workers and public health first. Some lawmakers stepped up too. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Ca.) railed against using any funds for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Ca.) championed a letter signed by 20 members of Congress. In it they opposed the bailout of an industry that recklessly amassed “significant debt by expanding drilling in the hopes that global oil and prices will remain high and US markets would expand endlessly.”
Here’s the good news: The Trump administration’s plan to buy up billions of dollars of oil was nixed from the rescue package. But the corporate ‘slush fund’ remains — and the industry could tap those funds to continue their polluting ways. You can sign up for our email list to see our updates about this fight and petitions you can support.
Clean Energy Jobs Are The Way To Fix A Post-Coronavirus Economy
As soon as the deal was announced, lawmakers were touting another round of funding necessary to stabilize the economy. This is a huge opportunity to create the kind of climate rescue package we need, to move the country off fossil fuels and create millions of new clean energy jobs.
There is precedent for this kind of action: The 2009 economic stimulus package pumped $5 billion to support weatherization programs that helped renters and homeowners reduce their energy bills. This time we need much more than that.
Thankfully there are lawmakers who understand the urgency. During this round of negotiations, 18 Senators called for a stimulus plan that invests in clean energy, citing the 2009 relief package. The solar and wind industries were warning of massive job losses if they lost out on investment tax credits and they will no doubt be pushing once again for help. And many organizations — including Food & Water Action — are supporting a framework called The People’s Bailout, which would emphasize a just recovery package that prioritizes those most directly impacted by this crisis, while charting a long-term vision that prioritizes climate resilience, rebuilding public infrastructure, and strengthening our health care systems.
Fossil fuel billionaires are already looking to take advantage of this crisis, and they will continue to prey on the American public. The plan to buy up oil will be on the table again, and the industry will look for other handouts as well. We can push back by fighting to retroactively restrict the slush fund created in this round, so fossil fuel interests can’t use it to perpetuate their failed business model.
Any actions that prop up fossil fuel CEOs and shareholders instead of supporting the American people must be stopped. If you’re with us, share this and sign up for email updates on what comes next.