Democratic lawmakers and climate advocates on Tuesday condemned an announcement on Twitter from President Donald Trump that he had directed the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Treasury to make funding available to American oil and gas companies negatively impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"This is the opposite of #PeopleBeforeProfit," the international advocacy group Global Witness tweeted in response to Trump. "This 'great' industry already receives billions from the government while costing lives and livelihoods by polluting communities and the global climate. Time to stop propping up Big Oil."
The president's order came just a day after the price of U.S. crude oil plummeted to below zero for the first time ever and amid mounting concerns that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will continue to ignore demands for a People's Bailout while providing support to giant climate-wrecking corporations.
As Common Dreams reported Monday, the oil crash—which came on the last day that producers can trade barrels for next month—followed weeks of extensive negotiations among the president, Russia, an Saudi Arabia in which Trump pushed those countries to cut their oil output by up to 15% in order to prop up U.S. prices.
"Called it," People for Bernie tweeted Tuesday, highlighting a comment from the progressive group on Monday predicting that Republicans would move to bail out the fossil fuel industry following the oil price collapse.
CNN noted that while no details were announced in Trump's tweet, the move to bail out Big Oil could have political implications for the president, who is expected to face off against Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden in this year's general election.
"Dirt-cheap oil is likely to cause hundreds of U.S. oil companies to go bankrupt—especially smaller ones that took on too much debt," CNN reported. "Countless jobs hang in the balance, including in Texas, a potential battleground state in the November election."
The potential fossil fuel funding that Trump touted on Twitter Tuesday is part of a broader policy, as Axios outlined:
Trump renewed his push Monday for the government to buy roughly 75 million barrels of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve—or, alternatively, offer part of the SPR as basically a rental storage unit for U.S. companies.
- "This is a great time to buy oil," Trump said. Congress has not funded the effort thus far in its coronavirus relief bills.
- Trump also touted plans to use the SPR as storage space. "We're going to ... either ask for permission to buy it, or we'll store it," he said.
- The Energy Department last week said it's negotiating with nine companies to store roughly 23 million barrels of oil in the SPR.
"We should be transitioning to renewable energy via a #GreenStimulus, along with a Just Transition for current oil/gas employees," tweeted Mckayla Wilkes, a progressive primary challenger to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). "Instead, Trump is talking about securing the blood-soaked profits of the fossil fuel industry 'long into the future.' This is absolutely horrific."
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Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) also responded to the president by calling for a "climate plan" with "more jobs for less pollution."
Here's a plan:
Invest in a just transition: Health care, job training & pensions for workers.
Geothermal drilling. Not shale oil drilling.
Offshore wind. Not offshore drilling.
More jobs for less pollution.
— Nanette D. Barragán (@RepBarragan) April 21, 2020
Democratic strategist and columnist Max Burns highlighted how Trump's Tuesday tweet exemplifies a broader trend of how the president has approached helping corporations versus people impacted by the ongoing global health crisis.
"It really says something that [Trump's] answer to every problem is taxpayer-funded socialism for the ultra-rich," Burns wrote. "Hotel chains, industrial farmers, oil companies, cruise lines—but never those most in need."
Author and climate activist Naomi Klein called on the Democratic Party's federal leadership to counter with "a sweeping plan to cover the full salaries of fossil fuel workers while they retrain for the clean economy."
"Time to wind down this abusive industry that has always relied on massive public subsidies," Klein added. "There will never be another moment like this."