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Exxon booted from carbon tax alliance after lobbying scandal

An Exxon gas station sign
Exxon has been ousted from a carbon tax alliance after a company lobbyist was recorded saying that the oil giant voiced support for the idea only because it knew such a policy would be almost impossible to implement.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Exxon Mobil Corp. was suspended from the Climate Leadership Council, a pro-carbon tax group backed by conservation groups and some of the world’s biggest corporations.

The move comes just weeks after an Exxon lobbyist was secretly recorded by Greenpeace saying that the oil giant voiced support for a carbon tax only because it knew such a policy would be almost impossible to implement. Exxon was one of the council’s founding members when it was formed in 2017; other participants include BP, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to suspend ExxonMobil’s membership in both the council and Americans for Carbon Dividends, our advocacy arm,” Climate Leadership Council Chief Executive Greg Bertelsen said in a statement Friday.

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Exxon CEO Darren Woods apologized for the lobbyist’s comments at the end of June, saying they “in no way represent the company’s position,” and reiterated support for a carbon tax. The oil explorer already was under intense investor pressure to bolster emission-reduction efforts after an activist investor won a key boardroom battle that replaced a quarter of directors.

“CLC’s decision is disappointing and counterproductive,” Exxon spokesman Casey Norton said in an email. “It will in no way deter our efforts to advance carbon pricing that we believe is a critical policy requirement to tackle climate change.”

Support for a carbon tax to combat climate change is gaining momentum. Advocates say it would incentivize companies and consumers to pollute less. The American Petroleum Institute, the powerful oil industry trade group that counts Exxon among its members, endorsed such a policy earlier this year.

But a tax that could increase the costs of driving, flying and importing is likely to face stiff resistance from some quarters. The Climate Leadership Council advocates that any proceeds should be directly returned to taxpayers through “carbon dividends.” It also wants simpler carbon regulations and similar fees charged on foreign imports to create a level playing field.

The World Resources Institute, also a founding member of the council, welcomed Exxon’s removal.

All companies should “re-examine their lobbying, political spending and participation in trade associations to ensure their actions are fully aligned with their public statements on climate change,” the institute said in a statement.

Exxon will mull over “more aggressive objectives” on emissions, Woods said last month, citing input from Exxon’s new directors. The company is considering a target to zero out carbon emissions from its own operations, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.


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