How the fossil fuel industry is using the COVID-19 crisis to capture public funds and lock in dirty energy
The fossil fuel industry is cashing-in on the COVID-19 pandemic, to entrench its position, capture public recovery money, and push false solutions that pave the way to climate catastrophe. COVID-19 is a global health crisis, and in Europe alone there have been over 4.2 million cases and nearly 215,000 deaths.
But as with other crises – from the financial crisis of 2008 to the climate crisis – it has not affected everyone equally. The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted existing inequalities, with poorer and marginalised socio-economic groups, and minorities, disproportionately impacted. Big business has a long track record of using crises as opportunities to profit. After the 2008 crisis, big banks secured huge public bailouts while countless families lost their homes. The fossil fuel industry has a decades-long history of denying science, shaping laws in their favour, delaying, weakening, and sabotaging
climate action – all while making billions in profits, heating the planet and destroying communities.
Now, the question is how fossil fuel companies and lobby groups have acted during the pandemic and taken advantage of this context. And who is going to profit from the public money being poured into the COVID-19 recovery? Looking at the fossil fuel industry’s lobbying during the crisis, and the recipients of bailout funds – at the EU-level, in Italy, France and other EU member states – some clear and dangerous patterns emerge.
The industry is pushing its false solutions as part of the COVID-19 recovery, or using its systemic power to capture public subsidies supposed to aid economic recovery, locking us in to more fossil fuels despite the fact that the vast majority of coal, gas and oil reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to avert climate breakdown. The fossil fuel lobby is also using the crisis to try to delay climate action and lobby for environmental deregulation, efforts helped by their easy access to top-level decision-makers – while transparency around lobbying and decision-making plummets. The fossil fuel industry’s business model is destroying our present and our future. To stop their insidious influence, and prevent them further cashing in on the COVID-19 emergency to prolong their polluting, we need fossil free politics.