E&E News: Enviros slam Hoyer for supporting federal oil purchases

Environmentalists are criticizing House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for his call to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move that would help oil companies suffering a supply glut.

Hoyer made the call yesterday to reporters in advance of House Democrats’ release of the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act,” a $3 trillion package meant to help the country get through the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not include funding to buy more oil for the SPR (Greenwire, May 12).

Food & Water Action, the advocacy arm of Food & Water Watch, said Hoyer’s suggestion would be a massive gift to the oil industry.

“The idea of bailing out the oil and gas industry by filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would be laughable if it were not so serious. The flailing oil and gas industry built its boom cycle on epic overproduction, flooding the world in a glut of oil at the exact time we need to be dramatically reducing extraction of all fossil fuels,” Mitch Jones, the group’s policy director, said in a statement.

“We should not be bailing out the oil and gas industry — we should be buying it out by taking public control of assets and managing a fair and just transition for workers and front-line communities,” Jones said. “Doing otherwise is irresponsible, and shows a lack of real understanding of the climate crisis.”

Jones added: “Democratic leadership must get this right, because the fate of our habitable planet depends on it.”

Oil Change International joined in the criticism of Hoyer.

“Equating a bailout for Big Oil with basic protections for nurses and healthcare workers in a pandemic is completely egregious,” Collin Rees, the group’s senior campaigner, said in a statement.

“House leadership must stand up for working people without throwing a lifeline to fossil fuel billionaires,” he continued.

The idea of filling up the SPR has gotten support mostly from President Trump and Republicans, but some Democrats have backed it, too. The idea would be to boost demand and provide a place to store excess oil, increasing prices from their historic lows.

“Both parties have used part of the strategic petroleum supply, which was created to make sure that we had energy available to us at a time of crisis where oil supplies were shut off. Now, circumstances change, we are a world’s largest producer of energy,” said Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House.

“I think this is a time to restock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” he said, “and make sure that we have a supply.”

Texas Rep. Lizzie Fletcher is among the few House Democrats vocally calling for buying domestic crude for the SPR. In the Senate, Doug Jones of Alabama is a Democratic supporter of the move.

But the House majority blocked $3 billion for oil purchases in the last big stimulus. Some Democrats were willing to consider the matter in exchange for renewable energy incentives.

Hoyer faces a long-shot primary challenge next month from McKayla Wilkes, who supports the Green New Deal, a proposal Hoyer opposes. Wilkes has the support of environmental group 350 Action, among other progressive organizations.

Wilkes used the news of Hoyer’s comments to contrast herself to him.

“This is not the time to invest in fossil fuels through federal petroleum purchases. We need to act now on climate change, before it’s too late,” she wrote on Facebook. “This is a key policy difference between the Congressman and myself.”

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