The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion stimulus package designed to bolster the economy that is entering atrophy under the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected over 69,000 in the U.S.
The unanimous approval of the measures—which constitute the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history—came late Wednesday evening after days of debate where environmental lobbyists pushed to include more green clauses.
“Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small
businesses until they get to dust off the Green New Deal,” Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell said
Monday after weekend-long negotiations failed to reach a deal. A second
vote later that day was beaten down, too.
The green-minded Democrats sought to include conditions on a bailout for the aviation industry that would give airlines a payout only if they cut greenhouse gas emissions. There was a move to include tax credits and other benefits to support wind and solar power too, while scrapping a $3 billion White House proposal to shore up oil reserves.
The purpose of those climate-conscious caveats is to avoid kickstarting the economy off in the wrong direction. As Jamie Henn, co-founder of the global environmental platform 350.org, said to Vox, the coronavirus has “basically turned off the global economy. [We should] install a new operating system before we turn it back on.”
I made a similar argument in The Loop a couple of weeks ago when discussing how manufacturers are hedging their bets against another pandemic by diversifying supply chains outside of China. These shutdowns are an opportunity to build something new rather than simply restart the old.
For an idea of what a greener path out of the pandemic might have looked like, a group of high-profile environmental advocates, academics and activists pitched their own $2 trillion Green Stimulus package.
In the end, however, the bill that passed the Senate offers little to the environmentalists. The oil purchasing plan was struck from the deal but the proposed tax credit extensions for clean energy were cut as well.
Airlines will receive roughly $30 billion in loans and cash without being subject to greater scrutiny over carbon emissions, too, in a further blow to the green campaigners.
Nevertheless, the $2 trillion provides swathes
of measures giving billions in support to individuals, business and
hospitals—spending that will save livelihoods as well as lives. That’s a win.