Several oil-and-gas giants are joining together in an effort to encourage lawmakers to pass a national carbon tax, splitting with industry trade groups.
The new effort brought representatives of Exxon, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Mobil Corp. to Capitol Hill on Wednesday. This is part of a broader coalition involving 75 Fortune 500 companies.
The coalition was the largest gathering of businesses on Capitol Hill to advocate for climate legislation in over a decade, according to Ceres, a sustainable investment group behind the effort. The companies involved jointly represent more than $2.5 trillion in market valuations and over 750,000 U.S. employees.
The CEOs representing companies that range from ski outfitters to dairy farmers argued that the effects of climate change were already being seen on their bottom lines. They argued a carbon price was the only market-driven route to solve U.S. emissions.
But it was the involvement of fossil fuel companies in pushing for a carbon tax garnered the most attention.
The involvement of fossil fuel companies in the new push is mostly due to foreign based oil and gas companies who agree with the international consensus for climate action, according to one lobbying source.
“Historically the refiners have been against things like a per barrel fee, a carbon tax, and a border adjustment tax on imported crude. Now you have a large push led by the foreign headquartered companies to be more forward thinking on climate matters,” the source explained.
One major fossil fuel group though absent from Wednesday’s lobbying blitz is the American Petroleum Institute, with over 600 members. The group has struggled with how to address the issue of climate change for its members.
“Surely an association like API knows exactly how they would craft a carbon tax if they wanted to,” the source said. “But I’m not sure how they meaningfully engage in that process with a divided membership.”
Ben Marter, API director of communications, said that the group is meeting climate change “head on” in some other ways.
“Our industry is meeting the climate challenge head on, driving carbon emissions to their lowest levels in a generation. API evaluates specific legislative proposals with an eye to reducing emissions while delivering reliable and affordable energy for all American families,” he said.
Many Republicans though remain skeptical.
“A carbon tax is not the solution to address our environmental challenges,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, said at a hearing on carbon pricing last week.
With Republicans in control of the Senate and President Trump in the White House, the visiting CEOs acknowledged that passing a carbon tax before 2020 appears unlikely, but insisted they aren’t deterred.
“This is the answer that will be implemented once the country takes it seriously, said Jeff Eckel, CEO of Hannon Armstrong. “I’m not an optimist that government is the solution here, but that doesn’t mean we try to do things that don’t work.”