In a speech Wednesday outlining his new executive actions aimed at confronting the "existential threat" of the climate crisis, President Joe Biden said he plans to ask the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass legislation eliminating the tens of billions in taxpayer subsidies the federal government continues to hand Big Oil even as the planetary emergency wreaks havoc in the U.S. and across the globe.
"Unlike previous administrations, I don't think the federal government should give handouts to Big Oil to the tune of $40 billion in fossil fuel subsidies," said Biden. "I'm gonna be going to the Congress and asking them to eliminate those subsidies."
While the president did not offer specifics on what he would want a potential bill to look like, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and other progressive lawmakers introduced legislation last year that proposed ending direct federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and "abolishing dozens of tax loopholes, subsidies, and other special interest giveaways littered throughout the federal tax code."
The lawmakers estimated the End Polluter Welfare Act would save taxpayers up to $150 billion over the next decade.
Watch Biden's remarks:
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Biden's call for legislative action on fossil fuel subsidies came just before he signed an executive order that, according to a White House summary, "directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law"—a move that would not touch handouts mandated by Congress.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Alex Doukas of Oil Change International (OCI) argued that Biden's new executive actions and remarks on climate "could set the stage for a massive shift away from public handouts to the fossil fuel industry—not only in the U.S., but around the world."
Biden's Executive Order and statements today could set the stage for a MASSIVE shift away from public handouts to the fossil fuel industry - not only in the US, but around the world.
— Alex Doukas (@adoukas) January 27, 2021
Collin Rees, senior campaigner at OCI, said in a statement Wednesday that "directing federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies where they are able to is a welcome shift from a Trump administration that spent four years doubling down to massive giveaways to oil, gas, and coal."
"Biden campaigned on eliminating fossil fuel giveaways, and voters agree by a huge margin," said Rees. "Taking the climate crisis seriously means prioritizing clean energy and investing in an equitable transition, not propping up an industry destroying the climate and abandoning its workers."