Analysis: Time for oil companies to join Exxon in push for carbon tax

FILE - This April 2, 2010, file photo, shows a Tesoro Corp. refinery, including a gas flare flame that is part normal plant operations, in Anacortes, Wash. The plant is among those likely to be affected if Washington state becomes the first in the nation to pass a tax on carbon pollution from fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
 (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Exxon Mobil is stepping up efforts to promote a tax on carbon to address man-made climate change, which is both a welcome move and a politically astute one.

The world’s largest oil company wants a simple tax charged on extracted carbon, such as oil and gas, in lieu of complicated regulations or trading schemes that too often create unintended consequences. Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson also wants the money returned to the public to offset the cost to consumers.

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While Exxon first advocated for a revenue-neutral carbon tax in 2009, the company has recently stepped up lobbying in Washington and around the world. The move was sparked by President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the world’s adoption of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change and the U.S. House of Representatives’ resolution to condemn any tax on carbon.

As the world takes action to reduce carbon emissions, Exxon wants governments to choose the simplest, most effective solution, explained Alan Jeffers, spokesman for Exxon Mobil.

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“Allow market forces to drive solutions, in other words, if you put a price on carbon that is transparent and predictable and visible, the market will find ways to advantage lower-carbon energy sources, like it has with natural gas,” Jeffers told me in an interview. The company charges itself a carbon tax when evaluating the economics of future projects.

And yet some in Congress are getting in the way.

At, columnist Chris Tomlinson writes that Exxon doesn’t disagree on climate change science and is developing a business plan for a low-carbon future.