Fossil fuel industry received $110 billion in direct and indirect COVID-19 relief

Since March 26, the United States government "provided between $10.4 billion and $15.2 billion in direct benefits to coal, oil and gas companies" and nearly $95 billion in indirect benefits.

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A new report published by BailoutWatch, Public Citizen and Friends of the Earth revealed the fossil fuel industry received billions in federal relief during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, a total of $110 billion in direct and indirect benefits went to 66 fossil fuel companies.

Starting on March 26, the report concluded that the United States government “provided between $10.4 billion and $15.2 billion in direct benefits to coal, oil and gas companies” and nearly $95 billion in indirect benefits.

“The fossil fuel industry took advantage of the pandemic to put their hands out for help escaping a financial mess of their own making, and their allies in the federal government rode to the rescue,” Christopher Kuveke, BailoutWatch analyst and a co-author of the report, said. “By artificially delaying the industry’s inevitable decline at taxpayers’ expense, the government has made it that much harder to make the necessary transition to clean energy sources.”

Additional added benefits the fossil fuel industry took advantage of included waived drilling fees on public land, federal bond-buying programs, private bond sales, tax refunds and subsidized or forgivable loans.

The research team “calculated the direct benefits paid out through programs established under the CARES Act—the Paycheck Protection Program, the Main Street Lending Program, and tax-law changes benefiting the industry—and other industry-friendly policies” to come to their conclusion.

According to Public Citizen, some key finding from the report include:

  • At least $5.5 billion in tax benefits to 70 money-losing dirty energy companies. This number is expected to grow.
  • $582 million in direct, subsidized loans through the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program to 37 mid-sized fossil fuel and related companies. The program caters to them by design.
  • $4.3 to $9.1 billion in forgivable loans to at least 25,931 companies through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The exact sizes of some loans were not disclosed.
  • At least 229 oil and gas companies enjoyed waivers of fees normally paid to drill on public land, giveaways that cost the government a minimum of $4.5 million in lost revenue, likely far more.
  • Half of the quantifiable direct and indirect benefits, totaling $54.2 billion, went to just 66 companies.

“It’s time to cut dirty energy’s lifeline,” Lukas Ross, program manager at Friends of the Earth, said.

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