Lawmakers, scientists, and economists are putting their heads together to determine the best ways to prevent economic collapse. Could green policy drive economic recovery? A green stimulus may be the answer. To make the case for a green stimulus, we must first examine existing fiscal policy structure.

Facts and factors for green stimulus

The United States relies heavily on fossil fuels, which accounted for 82% of American electricity generation in 2019. Comparably, renewable energy sources only contributed 15% of total electricity generation. Any proposed green stimulus will face an opposing package that further solidifies the fossil fuel cornerstone of our infrastructure. 

As oil prices dropped sharply in March and remained notably low through the end of May, the Department of Energy moved swiftly to bail out big oil companies. The Department purchased 77 million barrels of American-made crude oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to its full capacity.

The DOE wants taxpayers and employees of small to midsize oil companies to benefit from this fiscal stimulus. Therefore, groups like the Green Stimulus Proposal are making the case for green policy too. Comprised of climate and social policy experts, the group is trying to convince policymakers how a transition from fossil fuels will benefit the taxpayer and that it won’t leave employees of these oil companies in the dust. After all, the US oil industry directly employed 150,000 Americans, sustained over 10 million additional jobs, and constituted almost eight percent of the country’s GDP before March and April’s layoffs.

The Green Stimulus Proposal

The Green Stimulus Proposal has constructed a comprehensive, self-proclaimed “menu of solutions” to address sustainable economic revival, outlined in its open letter and call to action to members of Congress:

Thus, we propose an ambitious Green Stimulus of at least $2 trillion that creates millions of family-sustaining green jobs, lifts standards of living, accelerates a just transition off fossil fuels, ensures a controlling stake for the public in all private sector bailout plans, and helps make our society and economy stronger and more resilient in the face of pandemic, recession, and climate emergency in the years ahead.

This stimulus should be automatically renewed annually at 4% of GDP per year (roughly $850 billion) until the economy is fully decarbonized and the unemployment rate is below 3.5%. A Green Stimulus would make short-term interventions, restructure political and economic power towards workers and communities, and build toward deep long-term change.”

Notably, this Green Stimulus addresses environmental and social sustainability. One cannot prosper without the other; unless workers live and work in safe, healthy environments, the healthcare crisis will deepen even further. Until we commit to procuring these healthy working environments, climate change will only continue to worsen. Further, the plan’s mission statement states its intention to ease the delicate transition from fossil fuel reliance to renewable energy, committing to direct taxpayer involvement in private sector bailouts. 

Making the case for a green stimulus

To begin, we must focus on stopping the spread of the coronavirus. That is our first priority. Yet, we must prepare for the implementation of the Green Stimulus now by laying the groundwork for green projects by furthering legislation, conducting consultation, and planning transition and construction. First and foremost, leaders must work with state, local, and federal governments to produce legislation that will ensure the safety of workers returning to work while the coronavirus continues to spread. 

Five principles for just COVID-19 relief and stimulus

The Green Stimulus crucially aligns with five tenets of policy designed by over 300 environmental, justice, labor, and movement organizations to prevent further societal damage from the coronavirus. 

Just covid-19 relief and stimulus - 5 factors

Four key strategies for green stimulus

This proposal’s nuances all come back to four key strategies blanketing industrial and bureaucratic spheres:

  1.  Create millions of family-sustaining career-track green jobs

Green jobs include positions in widespread clean energy development; retrofitting buildings according to LEED standards; building homes sustainably; maintaining, operating and improving public transportation; and manufacturing electrical appliances and vehicles. Additionally, green jobs in local food economies will prove essential, along with green infrastructure construction and management. Localizing sustainable textiles and apparel will slash greenhouse gas emissions, which opens a window of opportunity for low-income workers and workers of color to obtain dependable union jobs. 

  1. Deliver strategic investments

Investing strategically involves restructuring housing, making it less harmful to the environment; installing solar panels on rooftops; developing broadbands in rural areas; and building and deploying electric buses. In keeping with socially sustainable goals, minority and disadvantaged communities will benefit from this infrastructure overhaul.

  1. Expand public and employee ownership

Expanding public and employee ownership requires leveraging public entities and assets that previously exist, taking equity stakes in companies already receiving substantial fiscal relief, and allowing workers to autonomously determine cooperatives and measures designed for their benefit and safety.

  1. Make rapid cuts to carbon pollution

Divesting from fossil fuel demands that salaries, benefits, and retirements of fossil fuel workers are protected, so a certain portion of the $2 trillion stimulus package will support these workers and smooth the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.

Bottom line

As stated by The Green Stimulus Proposal, “This is an inflection point for our nation. This is a pivotal moment to put tens of millions of Americans back to work, building a healthy, clean, and just future.” The Green Stimulus plan must decidedly advocate for ambitious measures and well-reasoned policies to correct the egregious destruction of American land and improve workers’ conditions nationwide.

We must follow suit after several European countries’ green stimulus packages; the world is watching. For example, the European Union announced the ”world’s biggest green stimulus” last week, citing the ambitious goal of achieving net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The proposal requires a whopping 750 billion euros, some of which will be allocated for building retrofits at 91 billion euros per year. European governments will turn their focus towards clean hydrogen and transportation and renewable energy in this long-term investment.

Without the support of the American people, however, Congress will not approve all of the pieces of this plan necessary to viable economic recovery from a disease that continues to impede global and national trade.

Therefore, I encourage you to write and call your state and local policy-makers to support this strategy and to discuss it with your family and friends. We know that many elements of our society will emerge from the pandemic remodeled and adapted; why shouldn’t fiscal policy?

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