Oil, utility execs lobby senators on carbon fee

E&E News
April 14, 2021
By Nick Sobczyk

Executives from oil companies, utilities and some of the world’s biggest companies are meeting with senators and staff this week to push a carbon-fee-and-dividend proposal.

The Climate Leadership Council has organized virtual meetings with members of both parties and executives from ConocoPhillips, Exelon Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Hannon Armstrong, IBM and several other companies.

The advocacy push comes as Congress prepares to consider President Biden’s infrastructure plan, widely seen as a possible conduit for climate policy.

“The United States is locked in a global race to own the future of clean energy, and that’s a race we can win if we employ sound economic policies that incentivize
investment in new and existing clean energy technologies,” Exelon CEO Chris Crane said in a statement.

CLC proposes a $40-per-ton carbon fee and a border carbon adjustment, with revenues returned to the public in a dividend check, in exchange for the elimination and simplification of some greenhouse gas regulations.

It’s a plan that has drawn some scrutiny from environmental groups, which are skeptical of the regulatory trade-off and of any climate advocacy from the major oil companies that helped bring climate denialism into American politics.

But CLC argues that a tax-and-dividend policy is more efficient than regulations and that businesses would be more likely to work in concert to reduce emissions in a pricing regime (E&E Daily, Dec. 18, 2020).

“Business leaders are committed to addressing our climate challenge, and the consensus among them is that a carbon price is a central part of the solution,” CLC
CEO Greg Bertelsen said in a statement.

“No other climate policy will go further in lowering emissions, stimulating innovation across the economy, boosting American competitiveness and supporting families than carbon dividends.”

The American Petroleum Institute and other prominent industry groups have come out for carbon pricing in recent months, but it has generally fallen out of focus in some corners of the Democratic Party.

It was not a part of the infrastructure plan Biden proposed last month, but climate envoy John Kerry subsequently suggested last week that the president is open to the idea (E&E Daily, April 9).

And while the policy has long been seen as potentially GOP-friendly, most Republicans do not support it, with the exception of a few moderates. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), for instance, has said he is open to the dividend model.

“The acid test of how serious API and the oil majors are about carbon pricing is whether Republicans sign on to a robust carbon pricing bill,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a prominent carbon tax supporter, said in a recent interview. “And so far, that acid test has not been met.”

Meanwhile, carbon pricing proposals have continued to proliferate on Capitol Hill, including from prominent members like Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.) this week introduced H.R. 2451, a House companion to Durbin’s “America’s Clean Future Fund Act,” which would price carbon at $25 per ton, increasing $10 over inflation annually, with much of the revenue sent back out in dividend checks.

Big companies across the board have ramped up their climate advocacy in preparation for action from the Biden administration, and now many are calling for ambitious national targets ahead of the president’s Earth Day summit on April 22.

In an open letter to Biden yesterday, dozens of companies called on the administration to set a new Paris Agreement target of halving emissions by 2030 compared with 2005 levels.

The companies — including Walmart, Nike, Google, Facebook and Exelon — said the United States “must adopt an emissions reduction target that will place the country on a credible pathway to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”

“A bold 2030 target is needed to catalyze a zero-emissions future, spur a robust economic recovery, create millions of well-paying jobs, and allow the U.S. to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic,” they wrote.