Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Exxon Puts $1 Million into Quest for Carbon Tax-and-Rebate Plan

Carbon emissions (Credit: Bloomberg News Editors) Click to Enlarge.
An effort to put a tax on carbon dioxide emissions just won an unlikely underwriter: a top producer of oil and gas.

Exxon Mobil Corp. is putting $1 million into a political campaign that, if successful, would effectively spawn a tax tied to the company’s core products.

The move is consistent with Exxon’s longstanding support for a price on carbon dioxide, imposed instead of an array of environmental regulations that already elevate the cost of fossil fuels.  But it marks the very first such contribution by a major oil company to the effort, known as Americans for Carbon Dividends.

With Exxon’s donation, the biggest U.S. oil company is joining the nation’s largest nuclear power generator and major renewable energy boosters in bankrolling the political campaign to put a tax on emissions, with revenue the levy raises redistributed to U.S. households.

“This is the first time a U.S. oil and gas super major is putting real money behind a carbon pricing effort; it’s just never been done before,” said Ted Halstead, chief executive of the Climate Leadership Council that developed the underlying plan.  “A million-dollar gift is not small money for this type of thing.”

Power generator Exelon Corp. already committed to giving $2 million to the effort over the next two years.  Renewable power manufacturer First Solar Inc. and the American Wind Energy Association are each contributing $100,000 per year.  The donations are helping pay for a robust lobbying campaign led by former senators John Breaux and Trent Lott and advised by several political operatives.

The company’s $1 million pledge represents the amount it generated about every two minutes last year, based on revenue data compiled by Bloomberg.  But the commitment appears to stand out from the company’s other political spending.  For instance, Exxon reported $11.4 million in total lobbying expenses in 2017.  And it disclosed giving just $510,000 to state-level candidates, state committees and national political organizations representing governors and state attorneys general last year.

“We’ve been supportive of a revenue-neutral price on carbon for a decade,” said Exxon Mobil spokesman Scott Silvestri, referring to a tax or fee that does not actually raise revenue for the government.  “Applying a uniform cost across the economy is consistent with our principles on how to manage the risk of climate change.”

Exxon and other oil companies had already signed on as advocates of the underlying carbon plan, which has the backing of a broad coalition of prominent conservatives, corporations and economists, including former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.

Under the Climate Leadership Council’s blueprint, every ton of carbon dioxide would be hit with a tax, potentially starting at $40 per ton and rising over time, with revenue redistributed to households in the form of quarterly dividend checks.  In exchange, regulations aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions -- and much of the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate them -- would be eliminated.

The carbon tax would boost the cost of energy derived from oil, natural gas, and coal, thereby discouraging the use of those fossil fuels and encouraging the development of low-carbon power alternatives.  The resulting carbon cuts would exceed reductions the U.S. had promised as part of the Paris climate accord, according to an assessment by Resources for the Future, a non-partisan think tank.

Read more at Exxon Puts $1 Million into Quest for Carbon Tax-and-Rebate Plan

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