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Rosen writes: "In an attempt to combat climate change, the world's largest publicly traded oil company is asking to be taxed."

A worker adjusts the valve of an oil pipe at West Qurna oilfield in Iraq in 2010. Exxon Mobil is lobbying other American oil producers to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax. (photo: Atef Hassan/Reuters)
A worker adjusts the valve of an oil pipe at West Qurna oilfield in Iraq in 2010. Exxon Mobil is lobbying other American oil producers to support a revenue-neutral carbon tax. (photo: Atef Hassan/Reuters)

Why Exxon Mobil Is Now Lobbying for a Carbon Tax

By Ben Rosen, The Christian Science Monitor

30 June 16


The world's largest publicly owned company is lobbying other American energy firms to get behind it.

n an attempt to combat climate change, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company is asking to be taxed.

Exxon Mobil is lobbying the rest of the American industry, as well as Capitol Hill, for a revenue-neutral carbon tax, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Exxon has welcomed a tax on carbon emissions since 2009. But December's Paris Agreement, aimed specifically at keeping most fossil fuel reserves in the ground, has prompted the company to increase its efforts over the past six months to convince the rest of the industry to get on board.

Exxon Mobil's efforts indicate a shift among American oil producers that follows their European counterparts, including Royal Dutch Shell and BP. Coupled with the Paris agreement and national and sub-national pressures, the industry's new attitude reflects "a widening acceptance of climate change as a challenge humanity should – and can – tackle," as Cristina Maza wrote for The Christian Science Monitor when chief executives of oil supermajors, such as BP, Eni, and Statoil, wrote a letter to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to advocate for a carbon tax in the hottest June on record in 2015.

"Previously Exxon's positioning on a carbon tax had been passive – 'Hey, we're not loving it, but we're not going to get in the way of it,' " Michael McKenna, president of the energy lobbying firm MWR Strategies, whose clients include oil and refining companies, but not Exxon, told the Journal. "In just the last six months, there's been an uptick in how they are asserting themselves in meetings about how to address this issue."

"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 May in the Dallas Morning News.

A carbon tax is just what it sounds like: a tax on fossil fuels, typically levied at the first point-of-sale, coal mine, oil or gas wellhead, or the port or border crossing. The type of tax Exxon Mobil supports is revenue-neutral, meaning the tax would be offset by other taxes being lowered.

A carbon tax has much support among academics, economists, and others in the public policy sector, according to Howard Gleckman of TaxVox. Energy producers, however, have historically resisted it.  

As global temperatures have warmed, and the industry has come under fire, its resistance to the tax has subsided. The European oil executives indicated this in their letter to the United Nations.   

"Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products," reads the letter the group sent the United Nations, "but carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future."

From their perspective, increasing the price of carbon emissions is far simpler than regulations imposed on them. And some of the revenue could alleviate how much it hurts customers, wrote Mr. Gleckman of TaxVox.

“Some of the revenue generated by such a tax could be used to cushion the economic blow suffered by low-income households as well as coal mining communities,” he writes. “Extra revenue could be used to reduce individual or payroll tax rates, help finance corporate tax reform, or trim the budget deficit.”

There are skeptics of Exxon’s motives. It began publicly supporting a carbon tax, as the cap-and-trade model – in which a limit is placed on the industry’s carbon production – gained popularity. If any firm exceeds the amount of carbon it can emit, it is penalized. Exxon is also facing two inquiries from Democratic attorney generals over whether it conspired to cover its knowledge about the impact of global warming.

But a carbon tax could become a reality, especially in a Democratically controlled White House or Senate. your social media marketing partner


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+15 # Dust 2016-06-30 13:48
Exxon doesn't give a crap about climate or science, unless it's drilling / extraction science (and not the dental kind).

They'd rather pay the tax and make smaller profits than have the tax not exist because of drilling & extraction limitations. That's a perfectly legitimate approach, sanctified by 'free market predatory capitalism', which socializes cost and privatizes profits.

But let's call a spade a spade - it has nothing to do with ethics or morals other than the idea that money = morality.
+2 # 2016-07-01 06:00
A carbon tax will not hurt their profits in the least. The tax will be passed on to consumers.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+1 # Dust 2016-07-01 09:14
Well, you're perfectly correct.

Having agreed with something you said, I am now calling Hell to see the temperature. :-p
+2 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2016-07-01 10:39
If money can equal “free speech,” why not morality? Next thing you know, some rich, white, Fundamentalist will sue to have Matthew, Mark and Luke rewritten to read, “It is easier for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, than for a camel to poke his nose into a tent.”
+1 # Dust 2016-07-01 12:31
True enough! But no need to sue - he/she will simply claim Divine Revelation and that the Greek really doesn't say what it says, because Jaybus spoke and said so.

Hell, that's essentially what they already do with the Prosperity Gospel.
+6 # jimallyn 2016-07-01 00:24
I am opposed to a carbon tax. We have to quit burning carbon-based fuels, period, so there shouldn't be any carbon to tax.
0 # 2016-07-01 06:24
It isn't clear how far you would go with your idea.

If we were to take you literally, one wonders how most of the world would cook dinner or purify water (needy people in the third world cook using peat, charcoal, wood, dung, etc. -- all fossil fuels). If we take you to mean only electrical power generation should not be using fossil fuels, that would not do a lot to solve the problem since much of the pollution in poorer parts of the world are due to burning carbon-based substances for domestic and agricultural use. It would also put the first world and second world into immediate chaos and poverty since 66% of the world's electricity is produced using fossil fuels. Most of the rest is produced using hydro and nuclear plants which also have their detractors in the climate change and environmentalis t movements.

to be continued....
0 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2016-07-01 11:00
@Lee Nason - while I dislike your glib politics, I agree with your point. If we are going to “quit burning carbon-based fuels, period,” as jimallyn has suggested, we must have the wherewithal to replace them. Otherwise, we are just like the “ivory tower liberals” that were the butt of so many jokes in the 1950s and 1960s. Here were these insulated, Ivy League types, full of pie in the sky solutions that looked great on paper but were worth shit in the real world.

Of course sustainable energy sources exist but the state of those arts is nowhere near ready to completely replace fossil fuels. What we need is a strong commitment to growing those technologies while simultaneously cutting back on the extraction, processing and use of carbon-based fuels, even instituting penalties for not doing so.
+2 # jimallyn 2016-07-01 11:27
It isn't clear how far you would go with your idea.

How far would I go? Far enough to save life on Earth. You gotta problem with that?
+1 # Texas Aggie 2016-07-01 17:06
No, none of those fuels you mention are fossil fuels. A fossil fuel is one in which the carbon content was sequestered eons ago such as petroleum and coal. Those in which the carbon was recently in the form of CO2 or some other common form of carbon, such as wood, dung, peat, etc., are most assuredly not fossil fuels. And since they are recycling carbon rather than adding carbon to the atmosphere, they have little effect on the greenhouse phenomenon.
0 # GravityWave 2016-07-01 20:04
So whatever you do, don't make any progress out of the morass that humans have made!
0 # zach 2016-07-01 05:58
I continue to be amazed in all this discussion that everyone, on both sides of the argument about climate change, ignores the IPCC report and one of its conclusions: Climate Change is irreversible. That is, if we are all going to be swimming on Wall Street, then get ready to swim on Wall Street (or Canal Street, or anywhere on the Island of Manhattan).
We are wasting time and public money thinking we can reverse climate change. The IPCC report says we cannot, other scientific studies support that view.
But, hey, it's more fun to point fingers and argue than it is to do anything useful, isn't it?
-5 # 2016-07-01 06:24
I suggest that all people advocating for the elimination of fossil fuel based electrical generation be required to "go off the grid" and show the rest of us how we are supposed to be living: presumably washing our clothes in the local creek by hand and drying them on the clothesline, eating raw fruits and vegetables, enjoying nature instead of TV or radio or our computers, going to bed a sundown, and having the iceman visit with us every day or so to deliver ice to keep our fruits and veggies edible. Going back to living the very hard lives our great grandparents did is certainly possible but I fail to see how it would be desirable.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
+3 # Dust 2016-07-01 09:07
In other words, Lee has an endless belief and faith in the intelligence and creativity and 'can do' spirit of human beings as long as it is based on making money. Any problem can be solved if it makes money and agrees with her political structure.

IF, however, the proposed course of action is something she associates with them liberal hippies, why, then it's impractical, impossible, and just adorably, stupidly naive.
+3 # Texas Aggie 2016-07-01 17:12
Many people would be more than happy to get off the grid, but the power utilities everywhere are doing everything they can do prevent that. AZ, NV, TX, FL now charge people extra if they generate their own electricity, and your people are pushing the same legal action in other states.

As for using solar panels and windmills for energy, why would that require washing in the stream? Why would using a solar water heater require eating raw fruits and vegetables? Your screed is making even less sense than usual. Denmark is almost 100% renewable electricity and Germany is coming very close. I hadn't noticed that either of those two countries are going back to the Neolithic period.
+2 # Karlus58 2016-07-02 13:26
Yes, we here in AZ are being scammed by APS, the Godfather of our utillities. Heck, they even charge a "premium" for using electricity during peak hours. That's, of course, when folks seem to need it the most. They're even sending you offers to set up their solar panels on your roof and then giving you a wee bit o money each month off your bill. So they use your roof and home to generate electricity which they can charge someone else, and, beat down the existing solar companies out of business. AND...with the blessings of the current Utilities Commission.
+1 # Karlus58 2016-07-02 13:20
Sounds delightful! Just what God ordered! Yes, let's go off the grid. Can't wait.
+4 # Texas Aggie 2016-07-01 17:18
"There are skeptics of Exxon’s motives."

No! Really??? How could anyone be skeptical of a corporation with such a wonderful, upstanding, selfless person like Rex Tillotson for CEO? Why the man oozes Christian charity and goodness out of every pore. Mother Theresa wishes she were as good a person as he is.

I think I feel like vomiting.
0 # Edwina 2016-07-10 10:15
As they say, the devil is in the details. If a carbon tax is traded for less regulation, or is used only to clean up the environmental damage of production and transportation, we haven't made much progress. The oil & coal companies have presented themselves as "energy" companies, when only a small percentage of R&D or production is in anything but carbon sources. (As in the oxymoron "clean coal".) Overproduction of oil and the continued recession may have an up side: the fracking mania may be slowed, hopefully tar-sands production. However, that does not amount to a coherent energy policy. Too bad we did not take Pres. Carter's lead 40 years ago.

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