The coronavirus took over the world and cratered the economy, leaving governments to pick up the pieces. In the case of the U.S. government, it awarded billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry, billions that could’ve instead gone to people in financial trouble across the country.
Now, some Democratic leaders are pushing to stop these corporate bailouts as the pandemic rages on. HuffPost reports that lawmakers led by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ilhan Omar are introducing legislation that would prevent fossil fuel companies from receiving any more covid-19 financial aid. Co-sponsored by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán and by Senators Ed Markey and Jeff Merkley, the bill is titled the End Polluter Warfare Act of 2020.
“It’s past time we end the billions of taxpayer subsidies to fossil-fuel companies,” Omar said in a statement to HuffPost. “Our focus right now needs to be on getting the American people through this difficult, unprecedented time, not providing giveaways to polluters.”
Indeed, the unemployment rates we’re seeing in the age of coronavirus are even worse than what the U.S. faced during the Great Recession. More than 20 million have been left jobless and without the means to pay their rent, mortgages, and utilities. Expanded unemployment benefits are slated to run out, and Republicans currently aren’t interested in extending them fully to help struggling families. The small business loan program is likely to received continued funding, though stipulations on how businesses can use the funds may change. That’s the same program that, among other industries, also helped bail out the Trump administration’s favorite dying industry: fossil fuels.
The continued support for fossil fuel companies to keep operating stands in opposition to the just and green recovery that many House Democrats, mayors, and experts have called for. The new bill from Sanders and Omar draws a line in the sand that would stop giving billion-dollar companies public dollars when the public is in desperate need. If the fossil fuel industry is dying, let it die, dammit, while also helping workers who will be affected.
According to HuffPost, this bill also includes ending funding of fossil fuel research and development in the U.S., as well as projects abroad. If voted into law, the proposed bill would save $150 billion over the next 10 years, which the bill’s sponsors want to see subsidize low-income households’ power bills and fund the Black Lung Disability Fund for coal miners.
“At a time when we are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and an economic decline, it is absurd to provide billions of taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits,” Sanders said in a statement to HuffPost. “Big Oil made more than $2 trillion in profits over the last two decades. We need more safe, healthy, good-paying jobs, not more corporate polluter giveaways.”
The bill sounds dope. If we’re keeping it real, though, it’s unlikely to make it past Congress, much less gain support from the president. Despite that, this proposal creates a clear record in Congressional history around who stood up for the American people and who stood by private, polluting interests.
Earther has reached out to Omar and Sanders’ offices and will include an update if we hear back.