Oil Change International and The Next System Project

April 2020

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The U.S. fossil fuel industry continues to seek bailouts during the COVID-19 crisis, as global oil demand craters and crude oil floods an already oversupplied market. These twin phenomena have combined to crash the price of oil, threatening the stability of the U.S. oil and gas sector. The federal government has responded by cutting environmental and public health regulations, prioritizing corporations over frontline workers and communities, and exploring appropriating billions of dollars to purchase oil surpluses to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Most recently, big banks are establishing holding companies to snap up financially shaky oil and gas companies, offering an ostensible private bailout.

During this crisis, the U.S. government should assert long-term ownership and control over fossil fuel companies to safeguard long-term economic security for workers, avoid taxpayer-funded windfalls for fossil fuel executives, restore communities exploited by fossil fuel corporations, save taxpayer dollars, and ensure an eventual managed phase-out of coal, oil, and gas production. 

Bailing out the oil, gas, and coal industries with no strings attached would return our economy to a precarious status quo in which the fossil fuel industry’s volatile and environmentally destructive business model worsens our economic and environmental crises. It would allow a handful of executives and wealthy shareholders to continue to extract the vast majority of profits, while taxpayers, workers, and exploited communities shoulder the burden of corporate and social risks and externalities. 

We need public ownership for the people, not a bailout for fossil fuel executives. By assuming ownership and control of the coal, oil, and gas industries, the U.S. government can position itself to provide near- and long-term economic security for struggling workers and communities, and to proactively wind down fossil fuel production to meet climate goals. This approach would also help manage further social, financial, and environmental stress from a sector already in decline before the COVID-19 crisis.

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  • I would worry about a government wanting to continue using oil industry assets, infrastructure, drilling rights and systems to INCREASE REVENUES. The U.S. would be more like Alaska — drilling and mining at catastrophic levels — than Norway. And even globally-caring and climate-concerned Norway has stayed too long in the oil game. No, public ownership is a bad idea. We need to keep working on the transition to an all-electric, wind, water and solar-powered economy. See:

  • States buying oil would still perpetuate the demand for oil: we need to stop buying oil and end its use.

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