A new report by environmental watchdogs Bailout Watch, Public Citizen and Friends of the Earth says that the fossil fuel industry – more than 26,000 coal, oil, and gas companies — has received between $10.4 billion and $15.2 billion in direct federal economic relief during a year in which a debilitating pandemic decimated small businesses that make up Main Street America.

It was also a year in which wildfires, driven by climate change fostered by the burning of fossil fuels, destroyed thousands of homes and record acreage of forest land.  

In the name of rescuing a dying and polluting industry, families, communities and businesses in dire need are being needlessly shortchanged. I believe that these ill-advised bailout policies will have a lasting, negative effect on the lives of our children. It’s not a legacy that shows them we care.  

Paola Ramirez

By directing aid to companies whose problems long predated the pandemic, the government has artificially prolonged the industry’s decline and postponed the coming transition to clean energy sources. 

Oil and gas companies are among the top emitters of carbon and methane pollution, which directly drives global warming. Air pollution worsens respiratory ailments, and our kids are particularly sensitive to that kind of damage.  Pollution is never kind to our health, most especially during a global respiratory virus pandemic.  

Global warming exacerbated by oil and gas is a major cause of the record rampant wildfires we’ve experienced in 2020. In Colorado, we had three of the largest wildfires in our history in 2020. The vast number of acres burned displaced countless families and businesses. 

For them, climate change is no longer something that might happen in the future; it is here – happening right now.

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On so many levels, the government bailout for fossil fuel companies just doesn’t make sense. We parents are scratching our heads as to why the government spends billions of dollars of taxpayer money propping up a vanishing industry, when more stimulus funds could go to building a healthy and profitable clean energy future for our kids.  

Recently, a former governor of the Bank of England astutely said, “Climate change is a tragedy of the horizon which imposes a cost on future generations that the current one has no direct incentive to fix. The catastrophic impacts of climate change will be felt beyond the traditional horizons of most. Once climate change becomes a clear and present danger to financial stability, it may already be too late.”

For business owners and families across Colorado and other western states whose homes and businesses burned in recent wildfires – that clear and present danger is here now. 

For the sake of our children and grandchildren, we absolutely must invest in clean energy and make a more profound effort to lessen the climate crisis we all face.

Subsidizing fossil fuels is unequivocally a loser.  It shortchanges communities and businesses across America, it proliferates global warming and creates public health problems.  It robs our kids of the better future we are entrusted to provide for them.

Our children are always watching and learning, and we need to take steps now that demonstrate environmental and economic wisdom. Think of what $15 billion could do to build clean energy systems for the future. For their future. 

It’s our hope that the incoming administration is asking these same questions and that our elected officials, such as Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen.-elect Hickenlooper, already know how much our kids are counting on us to make more forward-looking decisions. 

It is our hope that they and the rest of Congress will be keeping a keen eye on a healthy economy – and climate – as they spend our taxpayer dollars. 

Paola Ramirez is a Denver mother of two, a bilingual educator and a board member of Mountain Mamas, an organization that raises the volume of western women’s voices to protect our outdoor quality of life, for our kids and our future.

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