Actually, no, major fossil fuel companies and “left-wing enviros” have not found common cause in an industry-backed carbon tax proposal.
Though that was the misleading headline from the right-wing Daily Caller on Tuesday after it was reported that a plan by the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) to create a tax on carbon emissions would receive endorsement from ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and other large corporations—climate justice campaigners were quick on Tuesday to distance themselves from the proposal which they characterize as a scam and a distraction.
Put forward earlier this year by former secretary of state James Baker and other Republicans, the CLC plan is based on a market-driven scheme that would scrap many emission-reducing regulations while instituting a fuel tax that would be passed on to consumers. As the New York Times notes, the “proposal also says companies that emit greenhouse gases should be protected from lawsuits over their contribution to climate change.”
According to Naomi Ages, senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace USA, the plan is nothing but corporate opportunism masquerading as a solution to the crisis of human-caused global warming.
“ExxonMobil will try to dress this up as climate activism, but its key agenda is protecting executives from legal accountability for climate pollution and fraud,” warned Ages. “Buried in pages of supposedly ‘free market’ solutions is a new regulation exempting polluters from facing legal consequences for their role in fueling climate change.”
Along with Ages, Jamie Henn, communication director and co-founder of 350.org, said the oil companies involved are only trying to distract from the role they’ve played in creating the global climate crisis. Both ExxonMobil and Shell are under investigation for allegedly deceiving both the public and their investors for decades regarding what they knew about the role carbon emissions played in heating the planet.
“It’s important to separate the game from the truth,” said Henn. “Exxon is signing onto this carbon tax proposal because they know it’s dead-on-arrival, but hope it will distract from the ongoing investigations into whether the company lied to the public and its investors about climate change. Exxon has a decades-long track record of misleading the public on climate change; this is just more of the same delay and deceit.”
Ages agreed. “Across the globe, communities, shareholders, and top law enforcement agencies are launching investigations and litigation against fossil fuel companies. A nicely worded public relations exercise is no cure for decades of deception.”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, was scathing in her critique of the proposal and the oil companies backing it.
“If ExxonMobil and many of the world’s largest fossil fuel corporations are lining up behind a carbon tax,” she said, “you can be certain such a plan will have zero effect on their ability to maintain business as usual. That means continued oil and gas extraction, continued air and water pollution, and a continuing steady march toward irrevocable climate chaos. This plan being promoted by notable conservatives and their industry allies is particularly absurd: It would scrap many existing pollution controls—common sense rules that tackle carbon emissions at their source—in favor of a market-based scheme that would push added costs onto consumers, not polluters.”
Like her colleagues in the climate justice movement, Hauter said that faux solutions which let the industry off the hook should not be allowed to supplant real efforts to curb emissions that would create a faster transition to renewables.
“Only cutting carbon emissions at their source—by keeping fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning rapidly to clean, renewable energy—will quickly reduce emissions and effectively tackle the worst effects of impending climate chaos,” Hauter said.
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