December 8, 2013

THE INEVITABLE CAN ONLY BE POSTPONED, NOT PREVENTED:

Large Companies Prepared to Pay Price on Carbon (CORAL DAVENPORT, 12/05/13, NY Times)

Mainstream economists have long agreed that putting a price on carbon pollution is the most effective way to fight global warming. The idea is fairly simple: if industry must pay to spew the carbon pollution that scientists say is the chief cause of global warming, the costs will be passed on to consumers in higher prices for gasoline and electricity. Those high prices are expected to drive the market away from fossil fuels like oil and coal, and toward low-carbon renewable sources of energy.

Past efforts to enact a carbon price in Washington have failed largely because powerful fossil-fuel groups financed campaigns against lawmakers who supported a carbon tax.

In 1994, dozens of Democratic lawmakers lost their jobs after Al Gore, who was vice president at the time, urged them to vote for a climate change bill that would have effectively taxed carbon pollution. In 2009, President Obama urged House Democrats to vote for a cap-and-trade bill that would have required companies whose carbon-dioxide emissions exceeded set levels to buy emissions rights from those who emitted less. The next year, Tea Party groups spent millions to successfully unseat members who voted for the bill.

But ExxonMobil, which last year was ranked by the Fortune 500 as the nation's most profitable company, is representative of Big Oil's slow evolution on climate change policy. A decade ago, the company was known for contributing to research organizations that questioned the science of climate change. In 2010, ExxonMobil purchased a company that produces natural gas, which creates less carbon pollution than oil or coal.

ExxonMobil is now the nation's biggest natural gas producer, meaning that it will stand to profit in a future in which a price is placed on carbon emissions. Coal, which produces twice the carbon pollution of natural gas, would be a loser. Today, ExxonMobil openly acknowledges that carbon pollution from fossil fuels contributes to climate change.

"Ultimately, we think the government will take action through a myriad of policies that will raise the prices and reduce demand" of carbon-polluting fossil fuels, said Alan Jeffers, an ExxonMobil spokesman.

Internally, ExxonMobil now plans its financial future with the expectation that eventually carbon pollution will be priced at about $60 a ton, which Mr. Jeffers acknowledged was at odds with some of the company's Republican friends.

"We're going to say and do what's in the best interest of our shareholders," he said. "We won't always be on the same page."
Posted by at December 8, 2013 7:55 AM
  
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