Green energy and electric vehicle advocates and trade groups stepped up their opposition to a Republican proposal to spend $3 billion to prop up the flailing U.S. oil sector by buying oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. 

If a measure for fossil fuels is included, the groups insist, similar support should be extended to clean energy and electric vehicles, insiders tell Cheddar. 

"The renewable sector is fully supportive of broader measures designed to support the economy, protect workers, and ensure the health care system can effectively respond to this pandemic," Bill Parsons, chief operating officer of the American Council on Renewable Energy, an advocacy group, said in a statement. "But there's really no justification for including billions for the fossil fuel industry in the Senate stimulus bill without comparable emergency relief for the renewable sector, and we're seeing a pretty strong desire in both chambers of Congress to fix that glaring disparity in the final package."

Until this week, renewable energy and electric vehicles had not been seen as a stimulus priority among Democrats in either the House or the Senate. When senior lawmakers last week hastily appointed "task forces" to negotiate different aspects of expected stimulus measures, none of the groups focused on the issue of energy. 

"That told you that anything energy-targeted was not being given front-burner consideration," said Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist specializing in tax policy and energy at Bracewell. 

However, the topic burst into public view late Monday morning, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)., vented frustration with Democratic opposition to Republican-backed stimulus proposals. McConnell took to the Senate floor to lambaste efforts to insert provisions for solar and wind energy, among other green initiatives, in exchange for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve funding.

"Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy. Provisions to force employers to give special new treatment to Big Labor. And listen to this — new emissions standards for the airlines. Are you kidding me?" McConnell said. "I'd like to see Senate Democrats tell all American seniors who've seen their hard-earned retirement savings literally melt away as the markets track toward their worst month since 1931 that they're continuing to hold up emergency measures over tax credits for solar panels." 

However, green energy is not what's holding up the latest stimulus package, insiders on both sides of the aisle say. Rather, the bulk of the disagreement has centered on much broader issues: Democrats, for example, are seeking funding for four months of unemployment insurance rather than Republicans' three months, and to tighten provisions that would restrict businesses that receive federal aid from laying off workers, inflating executive compensation, or putting the money toward stock buybacks. 

Green energy and EVs advocates and trade groups have been taking a "two-tier" approach to the negotiations: Solar and wind developers are looking for immediate assistance for current projects, namely an extension to collect crucial tax credits that will otherwise expire as the projects are delayed due to restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus or from the financial crisis. They hope to push Democratic lawmakers to condition their support for funding of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on support for renewables.

"Even though it's not on paper anywhere, these are being talked about in the room. And the way they came up is that there's money in there for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so Democrats are trying to leverage something out of that," Donovan said. 

The effort, though, faces significant headwinds: A chorus of industries from restaurants to retail to airlines are seeking federal support. A roughly 1,100-page stimulus package shared Monday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), notably makes no mention of renewables or EVs — indicating that, even among Democrats, even rudimentary measures to aid green businesses are not yet a priority issue.

"When that leaked out without any clean energy provisions, that told me that that wasn't in play," Donovan said. 

Adding to the challenge, President Donald Trump remains a vocal skeptic of renewable energy, and especially wind turbines. As recently as Tuesday afternoon, the president reportedly said that one of the Democratic proposals for federal support included "windmills in there. Windmills, they kill the birds and the real estate."

The wind sector, along with the solar energy industry and other green groups, has sought to focus attention on jobs. A lack of federal support could erase tens of thousands of jobs, the sectors' grade groups say.

"We are going to keep stressing the point that these are very small adjustments to existing laws to enable these 35,000 workers to keep working," American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan said in an interview with Cheddar. "Roughly 85 percent of the wind that has been built in the last three years has been built in states that the president carried. So I don't understand the president's politics in that the states that support the president are very big wind states."

If the tax credit extensions don't make it into the current stimulus bill, being referred to as "Stimulus 3" in the wake of two previous stimulus packages passed last week, green groups are setting their sites on a "Stimulus 4." There they hope to include not only the rudimentary measures, but the second of the two tiers: broader, more ambitious tax credits for solar, wind, EVs, battery storage, and other initiatives into a more comprehensive recovery bill -- akin to the Recovery Act passed by Congress in February 2009 during the financial crisis, four months after the emergency Troubled Asset Relief Program. With each stimulus measure, though, opposition from congressional Republicans is expected only to increase.

"So there are a variety of things that could be done right now that are appropriate responses," said Matthew Davis, legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters. "Will it get in there? We don't know, but we're pushing for it.

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