ExxonMobil is one of the top targets of environmental activists, pursued because of its alleged misinformation campaign on climate change over the past few decades. It may come as a surprise to many then that ExxonMobil is actually pressing U.S. legislators to pass a carbon tax in the name of addressing climate change.
The Wall Street Journal reports that ExxonMobil has quietly been lobbying members of the U.S. Congress to implement a carbon tax, essentially viewing it as one of the least bad options to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The thinking inside the oil supermajor is that it can no longer be seen as opposed to all climate action. Complete intransigence could risk less desirable outcomes for the oil industry, such as more restrictive regulations on oil and gas production. A carbon tax is a more efficient way to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, both Exxon and independent economists argue.
“Of the policy options being considered by governments, we believe a revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best,” Suzanne McCarron, Exxon’s vice president of public and government affairs, wrote in the Dallas Morning News in May.
But the newfound assertiveness in pushing a carbon tax is likely also related to the scrutiny that ExxonMobil is under. The oil company is under investigation from several state attorneys general for its supposed role in covering up climate science and misleading the public on what it knew about climate change, a campaign that opponents say dates back decades. Related: New Drilling To Start As Oil Prices Firm Up
One other non-trivial reason to support a carbon tax is that Exxon’s natural gas business could thrive in a world that put a price on carbon. Coal-fired power plants would be shuttered at an accelerated pace, and would be replaced by renewables and natural gas. Exxon is already the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., and would be able to adapt to a carbon-constrained operating environment.
The support for a carbon tax stands in contrast to the Republican-led House of Representatives, which voted to condemn a carbon tax earlier this month.
The Wall Street Journal article comes a day after Politico reported that the American Petroleum Institute, a U.S.-based oil and gas trade group, is revamping its climate change strategy, an acknowledgement that the industry is increasingly on the back foot when it comes to the climate debate.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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