In shift, oil industry group backs federal price on carbon

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FILE - This Sunday, April 10, 2011 picture shows a rig and supply vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, off the cost of Louisiana. Thirteen states sued the Biden administration Wednesday, March 24, 2021 to end a suspension of new oil and gas leases on federal land and water and to reschedule canceled sales of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska waters and western states. The Republican-leaning states, led by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, seek a court order ending the moratorium imposed after Democratic President Joe Biden signed executive orders on climate change on Jan. 27. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

WASHINGTON – The oil and gas industry's top lobbying group on Thursday endorsed a federal price on carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming, a reversal of longstanding policy that comes as the Biden administration has pledged dramatic steps to address climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute, whose members include ExxonMobil, Chevron and other oil giants, announced the shift ahead of a virtual forum Thursday by the Interior Department as it launches a months-long review of the government’s oil and gas sales.

API also called for fast-tracking commercial deployment of long-sought technology to capture and store carbon emissions, as well as federal regulation of methane emissions from new and existing oil and gas wells, after strongly resisting such regulations proposed by the Obama administration.

“Confronting the challenge of climate change and building a lower-carbon future will require a combination of government policies, industry initiatives and continuous innovation,” API President and CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement.

The reversal comes as President Joe Biden has made tackling climate change a top priority, moving in his first days in office to suspend oil and gas lease sales from federal lands and waters and cancelling the contentious Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada.

Biden said during the campaign he supports “an enforcement mechanism” that targets carbon pollution, and the White House has left open use of a carbon tax to help lower U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has spoken in favor of the idea, telling the Senate Finance Committee, “We cannot solve the climate crisis without effective carbon pricing.”

While industry critics expressed suspicions over the sincerity of the move, Sommers emphasized that oil companies want “market-based solutions” such as a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade policy, rather than "heavy-handed government regulation.'' The oil industry played a key role in the defeat of proposed cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate a decade ago, and its endorsement of a carbon price and other federal action marks a turnaround after years of opposition to federal legislation to address climate change.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Thursday kicked off a broad review of the government’s oil and gas program that could lead to a long-term ban on leases or other steps to discourage drilling and reduce emissions.