Now’s Our Chance: A Future Free of Fossil Fuels - Waterkeeper

Now’s Our Chance: A Future Free of Fossil Fuels

By: Larissa Liebmann

UPDATE 5/13/2020: This post has been updated to reflect that the “Resources for Workforce Investments, not Drilling (REWIND) Act,” a comprehensive bill aimed at preventing fossil fuel bailouts, was introduced in Congress.

Oil prices plunged into the negative last week, in large part due to a dramatic drop in demand caused by the COVID-19 crisis. In response, fossil fuel and plastic industry lobbyists are flooding the federal government with requests for bailouts. But this recent financial crisis is just a symptom of a broader issue—that the fossil fuel industry is not only environmentally unsustainable, it’s financially unsustainable, too. 

The federal government should be investing wisely in our energy future, not simply handing out cash to powerful fossil fuel interests. Reach out to your Members of Congress today and insist that they not bail out the destructive and failing fossil fuel industry. 

Fossil fuel and plastics industries already are extensively subsidized by the federal government through financial assistance such as tax breaks, direct funding, and favorable loans. This assistance is valued at an estimated $10 to $52 billion annually. This figure does not even include the money that the fossil fuel industry saves from lax environmental standards and enforcement. This means that, rather than companies paying the costs of responsible pollution controls, they make more profits by externalizing the enormous costs of damage to waterways, air quality, and communities all around the world. At the same time, we are only beginning to see the immense costs that catastrophic climate change will bring. Despite all these handouts, the fossil fuel industry was struggling financially even before the COVID-19 crisis hit. 

COVID-19 has caused immense suffering around the world, both from the disease and from the economic impacts. However, this economic crisis also presents us with a unique opportunity to reshape our economy to prevent future suffering. Economic recovery will require massive assistance and investment by the federal government, fueled by taxpayer funds. 

We have a choice to make right now. We can entrench ourselves further in a corrupt cycle that recklessly props up powerful fossil fuel interests. Or, we can use this moment to break free and begin a compassionate and just transition to a sustainable energy future. 

Please join us—call, email, or tweet your Members of Congress and ask them to focus economic recovery funds on promoting a transition to a clean and safe energy future rather than propping up the dirty, failing fossil fuel industry. 

Feature image by Kyle T Perry/Shutterstock