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A $3 trillion stimulus, but $0 for renewable energy — leading businesses want to change that

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As a divided Congress works to pass a COVID-19 stimulus package ahead of the August recess, lawmakers should look to the business community for a common-sense solution to overcome challenging economic times. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on our health, with Black and Latino Americans suffering the worst impacts of this crisis. Our livelihoods are also at stake, as the U.S. economy contracted at a record rate from April to June — the worst quarter in our history. 

The next stimulus is urgently needed to bring widespread relief and jump start our economy — but we also must ensure that it propels us towards a better, more sustainable and more resilient future. There’s an obvious way to do that: invest in renewable energy. Yet so far, Congress has not addressed the economic harm and job losses that the clean energy sector has suffered as a result of the pandemic.

Now, more than 30 major corporations including McDonald’s, Tyson, Nestlé, Pepsi and Unilever — along with the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance, a leading trade association with members including Amazon, Google and Salesforce — have called for provisions in the next relief package ”to ensure the continued viability and growth of the renewable energy sector.” These include extensions of existing tax credits. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.), the companies wrote, “we know that our businesses do better when the economy is doing better. As evident from past economic recovery packages, federal investment in energy infrastructure is a critical driver of jobs and economic rebound.” 

They also pointed out that renewable energy production is a major driver of job creation in the country, with studies showing that investing in clean energy can yield three times more jobs than the fossil fuel industry creates. 

These companies understand that investing in renewable energy is a smart way to stimulate the economy and create jobs that pay well to help families recover from this recession. Incentivizing renewable energy use also helps businesses cut climate pollution, which is essential to build resilience and minimize the disruption and damage from future shocks. 

The same companies have made significant commitments to address the climate crisis. By backing renewables in the stimulus package, they are walking their talk on climate leadership and focusing on where they can have the greatest impact right now.

There are hopeful signs that Congress is listening. In late July, seven Republican Senators, four of whom are in tough 2020 races, wrote to Leader McConnell asking for clean energy incentives in the next recovery bill, noting the economic damage to the clean energy sector caused by COVID-19 and resulting loss of over half a million jobs. This follows a similar bipartisan letter from 50 House lawmakers in June.

Investing in renewable energy is a smart bet for boosting growth and job creation. Before the pandemic, clean energy industries were creating jobs 70 percent faster than the economy as a whole. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecast that America’s two fastest-growing jobs through 2026 will be solar installer and wind technician. And numerous studies have shown that public investment in renewables has multiplier benefits for the economy and public health, and that every dollar spent on renewables creates three times as many jobs as in fossil fuels.

Now is the time for Congress to act. As the businesses wrote, “it’s clear that we must double down on clean energy infrastructure to put Americans back to work and come back stronger and cleaner than before this pandemic-driven recession.” Congress should follow their lead and pass a stimulus bill that boosts clean energy jobs while building a cleaner, healthier, more resilient economy. 

Victoria Mills is managing director of Environmental Defense Fund. Follow her work on Twitter at @EDFBiz.

Tags Chuck Schumer clean energy clean energy jobs Congress Economic recovery energy jobs fossil fuel industry investing in renewables Job creation Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Renewable energy renewables Senate stimulus bill Stimulus Package

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