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Democrats don’t want to waste coronavirus panic: Sen. Whitehouse wants climate ‘menu’ included in economic aid package: ‘We’d want a price on carbon’


Democrats eye climate policy in economic relief bill

By Scott Waldman and Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporters Climatewire: Thursday, March 12, 2020

Excerpt: Federal policymakers should consider climate change as part of any economic aid package for the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus, say environmentalists and Democrats.

The demands follow talk by Trump administration officials and others of steering money toward several carbon-intensive industries that have been financially hurt by the global outbreak. Those include airlines, cruise lines and the fossil fuel sector.

“We’ve got to make sure we have a successful oil and gas industry,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). He added that President Trump and Senate Republicans discussed a bailout for the fossil fuel industry during a meeting Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

The discussions have prompted pushback from lawmakers such as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. The Rhode Island Democrat said airlines in particular must do more to address their carbon footprint in return for federal financial assistance.

Airplanes remain one of the most carbon-intensive forms of travel. Aviation currently accounts for 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But that percentage is poised to shoot up in the coming decades, as airline passenger numbers are projected to double by 2037.

“If they want to bail out the airline industry, then the airline industry better damn well be ready to clean up its act in terms of carbon emissions offsets,” Whitehouse said. “It can be done, they can do it, and the taxpayer should make sure they’re performing it.”

Democrats this week said they are anticipating they’ll have some requests to insert into any aid package that comes before Congress — much in the same way that Republicans called for tax cuts in 2009 as part of the $900 billion economic stimulus package pushed by the Obama administration. Democrats used that same package to steer support toward green energy jobs and other economic incentives for the renewable energy industry.

It’s unclear, however, whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate even would consider climate as part of future stimulus negotiations.

Whitehouse said he would seek to include carbon offsets as part of any stimulus for carbon-intensive industries. Another potential ask: a “menu” of other climate actions, such as tax incentives for clean energy.

“There would be a menu: We’d probably want a tax extender; we’d want a price on carbon; we’d have a long, long list — and don’t even get me started on the cruise ships,” Whitehouse said.