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Sat Apr 18, 2020, 12:28 AM

Polluter bailouts and lobbying during Covid-19 pandemic

From tar sands oil to aviation, global business sectors have called for suspension of environmental protections

Polluting industries around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic to gain billions of dollars in bailouts and to weaken and delay environmental protections.

The moves have been described as dangerous and irresponsible by senior figures. They say the unprecedented sums of money being committed to the global recovery are a historic opportunity to tackle the climate crisis, but such action has not been taken to date.

Fossil fuels
The fossil fuel industry, which already benefits from a $5tn-a-year subsidy, according to the IMF, has had the biggest wins during the coronavirus pandemic in the US and Canada.

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the US got the go-ahead, with $5bn in financial support from the Alberta government. US president Donald Trump called the move “GREAT news”. Other pipelines continued construction despite the lockdown.

To “alleviate financial hardship” to the US fossil fuel industry, Trump directed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be filled to its maximum capacity.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws, three days after a request from the American Petroleum Institute, and extended the period that the more polluting winter gasoline can be sold.

Three US states passed laws criminalising fossil fuel protests – South Dakota, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Republican senators asked the US federal government to “reduce, delay or suspend” taxes due on oil, gas and coal, while the National Mining Association lobbied to cut $220m in taxes intended to support coal miners affected by black lung disease.

In China, as the worst impacts of the virus outbreak passed, there was a surge in permits for new coal-fired power plants. From 1 to 18 March, more coal-fired capacity was approved than in the whole of 2019. In South Korea, the major coal plant builder Doosan Heavy Industries got a $825m government bailout; green groups say the company was in deep financial trouble before the pandemic. In Australia, lobbyists welcomed the South Australia government’s move to defer taxes and other commitments to oil and gas explorers.

Much more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/17/polluter-bailouts-and-lobbying-during-covid-19-pandemic

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