House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday urged Congress to take advantage of low crude oil prices to refill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, breaking with many members of his party who have opposed the measure as a bailout to the industry.
“Both parties have used part of the Strategic Petroleum [Reserve] 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,” Hoyer said in a conference call with reporters. “Now, circumstances change, and we are the world’s largest producer of energy now. But I think this is a time to restock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and make sure that we have a supply.”
The comments illustrate the stark divide within the Democratic party about how to address fossil fuels amid the pandemic. Senior Democrats removed language that would have authorized $3 billion in funding for SPR purchases during negotiations over the original CARES Act, although other Democrats have endorsed a bicameral bill topping up the reserve.
Hoyer also said energy companies could take advantage of many of the coronavirus relief measures enacted by Congress for companies, breaking with progressives in the party who introduced legislation last week seeking to bar fossil fuel companies from participating in those same programs.
“I don’t think we have any intention of discriminating against a company because of the kind of business it does,” he said. “The energy industry is a very important industry in our country.”
That remark was an apparent reference to allegations lodged by dozens of Republicans last week that major financial firms were discriminating against fossil fuel companies by refusing to finance certain projects.
Hoyer said Democrats remain focused on the hundreds of thousands of people employed in the energy sector, and since many large companies could obtain loans through the private sector, lawmakers’ focus would naturally be on smaller firms.
“I don’t think that’s a question of being for or against oil companies,” Hoyer said. “We are for employees who have lost their livelihood. And we’re wanting to help them and want to help their families.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.
Original source: Politico