Bailed out Banks in the News

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Our friends at Bank of America, Citigroup, and other major banks are in the news this week:
– Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Geithner unveiled the Obama administration’s bailout plan to spend up to 2 TRILLION dollars to revive the economy, including details for how the government will spend the second half of the TARP bailout funds.
– Today, Representative Barney Frank called the CEO’s of 8 of the bailed-out banks to a hearing before the House Committee on Financial Services to account for how they’ve spent the first half of those bailout funds.

We here at RAN are hoping that you can help us capitalize (no pun intended!) on the public focus on the banks this week to raise questions about another important and relevant consideration that hasn’t gotten much airtime in the current debate: What other risky behavior are the banks involved in, that threatens further economic calamity?

Many of the bailed-out banks are engaging in very risky investments, sinking billions of dollars in support of fossil-fuel intensive industries, such as coal and oil. Unlike Treasury Secretary Geithner, who reportedly resisted calls for more conditions on how banks spend the taxpayers’ money, we think that the release of additional public funds to these institutions should come with more strings attached. Or, at the very least, it should invite more public scrutiny of the banks’ other toxic investments.

The banks don’t really want to talk about their deep involvement in the climate crisis. But those risky and toxic investments (a) will undoubtedly face additional costs and regulation in the near future; and (b) are locking in an unsustainable infrastructure that will undermine the efforts to bring greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific necessity. Furthermore, the banks, even while receiving a government hand-out, are taking actions that undermine the goals of a ‘green’ economic stimulus package. If Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, or any of these other banks provide financial support to mountain top removal coal companies, new coal-fired power plants, and tar sands pipelines, they are helping to lock in long-term dirty energy infrastructure, undermining other efforts to address the other pressing issue of our day: runaway greenhouse gas emissions and the threats to the global climate.

That’s why RAN’s Global Finance Campaign continues to press these banks to take responsibility for their role in fueling climate change, and to redirect their resources away from dirty energy sources and towards support for energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy resources such as solar and wind. It is unconscionable that wind and solar are taking a hit from the credit crisis, at precisely the time when we need to ramp up our national capacity to harness clean energy. We believe that the banks must account for and commit to reducing the carbon emissions that are embedded in their financial services portfolios, and help fund the future.