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'This Is a Scam': ExxonMobil-Backed Carbon Tax Will Not Save the Planet


'This Is a Scam': ExxonMobil-Backed Carbon Tax Will Not Save the Planet

Jessica Corbett, staff writer

Amid warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that there's a closing window to act to prevent a climate catastrophe—and critiques that its report released Monday was far too conservative—critics are calling out ExxonMobil for pledging a $1 million contribution to a campaign for a carbon tax as a sneaky attempt to control the debate on climate action and dodge greater financial liability.


Normally, the baton is passed to the next generation. We are shoving it up their ass. Shame on US.


We have a major problem in this nation due to people killing each other.

I suggest the way to deal with this is a market based solution. If we tax murdering people, it will become something people will do less because they won’t want to pay the tax.


We should also tax our military for committing murder & other atrocities. If that works, we would end our wars & drone strikes & possibly shut down our bases abroad.


i don’t have a problem with a carbon tax. But it’s foolish to think of it as a silver bullet to solve climate change. Plus, it really matters how such a carbon tax is set up and how the revenues are used or distributed. You can bet that any plan supported by Big Oil and Repubs is bad, bad, bad.


Washington State’s current carbon tax ballot initiative 1631 exempts the state’s only coal fired power plant from the carbon tax. With the coal miner being his highest profile poster child perhaps Trump will be stumping for 1631?

The only argument advanced so far by those supporting it is that 1) “its time to reduce carbon”, and 2)“we need to preserve the environment for our grandchildren”. Although I agree with item 1, initiative 1632 has no specific plan for carbon reduction. I don’t agree with item 2, seeing how nearly all of us will experience negative impacts from, not just the grandchildren. Perhaps they are hoping that 1631 might reduce some carbon 25 to 40 years from now, at which time it will be too little too late.


This is unbelievable. Do we have to be made to look like fools? Very smart and sane environmentalists have been explaining why we need a carbon tax for many years and now somebody has to dis the concept just because Exxon said something positive about the idea? Of course they have an agenda. Of course they can’t be trusted and we should pick apart their proposal and show what the correct proposal (both in pricing per ton of CO2 and implementation) would look like. I realize there is an issue with goods moving from a country with a low carbon tax to one with a a high carbon tax, but this is a problem with trade in a number of areas (labor and other environmental impacts) and we don’t just give up. Wikipedia has a health article on the topic which I skimmed quickly (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax) and I’m not sure saying it is unproven is reasonable either (though I see it hasn’t been implemented due to pushback in several of the countries where it was started).

To call carbon taxes unwieldy is the thing that really irks me. Environmentalists have been explaining why this arm of regulation is much less unwieldy than Cap and Trade which is fraught with opportunities for cheating. And nobody says you can’t have regulation on top of a Carbon Tax.


Carbon isn’t the problem. Consumerism is. The decisions of corporations and politicians (owned by corporations) are simply spreadsheet results that they have to follow based on the purchases people make.
So-called “progressives” think we should tax the rich to solve problems, but that depends on the rich sucking the life out of everyone and the earth so they can pay those taxes. The cost of consumption needs to be immediately visible where the purchaser makes the decision (sales tax). Anyone who doesn’t think people will make the right decision when they have the right information is just too cynical about human beings to ever be allowed near one.
“What about Trump?”, you might say, or “He’s got all of the information in the world and look at what he does with it!”
Yes. He’s got all of the Empire’s resources telling him how to fulfill the demands of a Consumerist Empire. That information tells him that we “Expand or we die!” (and by “him”, I mean pretty much all Americans that buy their stuff instead of making it see it the same way).
We have a generational problem and only 6 years, tops, to fix it (the mean number of the 12 years we have to reach carbon reduction, and in 6 years, we’ll have either chosen a better path or not.)

With all of that said, I submit that we shouldn’t be arguing about “solving the climate problem” anymore because you all know damn well it’s politically impossible in this real world.
All of the discussions from now on need to focus on migration and mitigation of food supplies, housing, and research into new ways and places to build that will be equivalent to living on Mars (including who will survive the paleo-type society change and who probably won’t). We are not going to recognize our planet in the next decade, let alone in 80 years. Right now, all of our crops were developed in relatively stable climates and for feeding sick people and sick cattle who don’t care what happens to the soil around them.
My recommendation is that we start imagining how we are going to deal with the millions of dead and billions of refugees, how we will develop food systems based on grass-fed animals (grass is all we’re going to be growing reliably), and how to build houses that will have to withstand tornadoes and softball-sized hail every year.
Whether you believe this is going to “fly” with politicians or economists doesn’t matter. To quote George Carlin, “THEY… don’t give a F***…about YOU!!”
Defeatism or Realism? There is no longer any difference and labeling it is just art.


Dara, I initially blamed Jessica Corbett, the author of the article, for that unwise comment regarding carbon taxes. In fact, Corbett was quoting Wenonah Hauter from Food Water Watch who made that odd, and in my opinion wrong, observation.


Policeman one: “We’ve got to make him talk. We’re going to have to beat him up.”

Policeman two: “We can’t do that. Don’t you understand?”

Policeman one: “Oh, I get it. You want us to use jumper cables and attach them to his testicles and electrocute him instead!”

Dad: “Want me to pick up a truck load of sugary cereals for the kids for breakfast?”

Mom: “We can’t let our kids eat sugary cereal for breakfast every morning, it’s not good for them!”

Dad: “Right! A bowl of gummy bears every morning will be much better!”

Neoliberal Market Based Poser: “If we tax murder, people will stop killing so much because they won’t want to pay the tax”

Justice Based Person: “We can’t let people go ahead and get away with murder just because they pay a tax on it! What are you thinking?”

Neoliberal Market Based Poser: “You’re right. Let’s cap how many kills everyone gets a year, at say two, and then they can trade those with others! That’s a wonderful alternative to a murder tax!”

Neoliberal Market Based Poser Environmentalist: “If we tax carbon, people will stop using carbon so much because they won’t want to pay the tax.”

Real Environmentalist: “We’re in serious trouble here. We can’t just let corporations continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere like this as long as they pay a tax on it. What are you thinking?”

Neoliberal Market Based Poser Environmentalist: “Oh, you prefer Cap and Trade, then?”

Both Cap and Trade and the slightly better Carbon Tax still make it so people can still dump CO2 into the atmosphere.

There’s a third alternative. It’s called making putting CO2 into the atmosphere ILLEGAL!

All fossil burning fuel power plants need to be illegal after a few years, just enough for new renewable systems to be built- maybe three years? All new fossil fuel burning vehicles should be illegal in the same amount of time. Prop and Jet planes should be required to be hydrogen burning and the hydrogen made from water through electricity made from renewables.

Corporations should be made null and void if they don’t do this and those on the boards and CEOs put in prison if they don’t do this.

We’re not talking about whether we want our highways to be pleasant or cluttered with billboards like Lady Bird was concerned about in the Sixties. We’re not talking about whether we want all the litter picked up in our parks or not.

We’re talking life and death of our ecosystem. The Earth can handle massive climate change. But we and the other species who depend on this current ecosystem can’t.

But market based NeoLiberals think taxing carbon is the answer? You do know, don’t you, that any government becomes dependent upon revenues they get from taxes on things they supposedly want to ban by taxing them and thus become motivated to keep people buying the thing so they can keep getting the revenue? You know that cap and trade is just a worse kind of stupid system that doesn’t decrease CO2 just juggles it around? It’s as bad as offsets. “Oh, I can dump all this CO2 because I planted a tree.”

“Oh, I can kill this annoying neighbor because I pay for food and medicine for a child in Africa.” Sheesh.


Stop having kids. Turning to Exxon to save the planet isn’t working.


Big Ag & the way we feed ourselves is also destroying the ecosystem.


Real Antiwar Activist: “What can we do to get enough Republicans to join Mike Lee and enough Democrats to join Sanders and Murphy to put an end to the US caused portion of the war on Yemen?”

Unrealistic Antiwar Activist: “We must vote all Republicans out of office or even better, have a revolution and have a new form of government that is not an imperial nation - I don’t want to even talk to Republicans”

Real Environmentalist: “How can we move prices so that alternatives that are better though perhaps not perfect can move us in the direction we need to go faster than we are going now?”

Unrealistic Environmentalist: “I don’t want to talk price - I just want people to do the right thing now. Stop making gas cars now, stop putting any CO2 in the atmosphere in 3 years and send out the notices now.”

In 10 years, let alone 3-5 years, there is no way whatsoever to get every gas burning car off the road, shut down every fossil fuel energy plant, swap out all fossil fuel heating in houses and buildings, and stop all fossil fuel derived fertilizer injection into the agricultural system. Others here (e.g. @Trog and @PaulSwanee1) have written in more technical detail about the numbers needed to persuade you as to this point, but it would be a challenge to engineering and political will that is so far from the possible that to aim for that and discard practical steps we could take is an extreme version of making the perfect the enemy of the good. I’d give it as likely a possibility as @discover 's idea of wanting everyone to stop having children 9 months from now (snip snip everybody).

There is nothing about the carbon tax concept that should rule it out for any rational thinking environmentalist - no good argument I’ve ever heard anyway. If we can get over the political will hump (as I hope we are starting to do with socialized health insurance and I hope we can about imperialism too at some point), we can start to talk about what the right price per ton would be (likely differing across countries) and what to do with the money. Yes, I’m aware of the issue of becoming dependent on a tax on something you want to eliminate eventually such as cigarette consumption. That is why it is often proposed that a carbon tax be revenue neutral (so people who use less carbon than average would get a check in the mail that is bigger than the tax they paid out). That’s probably fine for portion of the money, but I would prefer a significant portion gets plowed back into both research and conservation (e.g. Obama’s stimulus should have included hiring and training energy consultants to come to homes, rental properties and businesses and offer free assessments of what improvements make the most sense and make navigating any tax incentives completely trivial).

Bottom line - it doesn’t have to be “the” answer, but it can be “an” answer. As I said, you can still have (and need to have) regulation on top of tax systems. And you don’t have to convince me about cap and trade or offsets - I’ve always thought those were ideas perhaps better than nothing, but fraught with lots of problems and not as good as a carbon tax (which would replace it).


So James Hansen is a “poser” environmentalist? If even he isn’t pure enough to qualify as a “real” environmentalist, I have to wonder how many people (or rather how few) would qualify.

The idea behind a carbon tax is to rationalize pricing, putting a cost on carbon dumping which is currently one of the larger hidden subsidies of fossil fuels. It helps the economic case for energy conservation, improved efficiency, and clean energy alternatives. It is not a whole solution, but there are no whole solutions in the offing. A rapid implementation of a total global fossil carbon ban has even less chance of happening than all the countries of the world soon agreeing to disband their armies, quit making weapons and cease all military spending. Such things may be theoretically possible in that they don’t actually defy physics or require magic, but given our social and political realities and human nature, the odds they could happen are not perceptibly distinct from zero.

I think it is also worth remembering that the whale oil industry didn’t die because the nations of the world banned it. It died because pricing and market forces rendered it uncompetitive–which, in the corporate world, is a far more compelling factor than any mere law or statute.


Compromising from the start, telling activists NOT to call for what really is needed, means that we let the Overton Window keep moving to the right.

My job is to make what actually are conservative market solutions like a carbon tax appear to be that way to more and more people because they realize that it won’t do the job and what really is needed is to outlaw carbon.

Only then is it possible we might actually have a debate and start to consider as a society ending burning carbon.

It’s like this. Ask for outlawing carbon in three years and we might end up with a compromise of outlawing it in fifteen years.

Ask for outlawing carbon in fifteen years and we might end up with a compromise of high fuel standards and subsidies for renewable energy power plants.

Ask for high fuel standards and subsidies for renewable energy power plants and we might end up with a carbon tax.

Ask for a carbon tax and we might end up with cap and trade.

Ask for cap and trade and we might end up with more fracking, more tar sands drilling, more pipelines, and more off shore drilling.

We must move the Overton Window to the Left.


So why not solve our murder problem the same way? The Barbarians in the Dark Ages used that method.

Come on. Join me in arguing for the outlawing of Carbon instead of compromising before you even start the messy process of trying to get things enacted.

Here’s the bottom line. All these compromise market based solutions will not fix the problem in time. Not at all.

We need to get serious about this. The first step is those of us who know we’ve got a real problem start unashamedly calling for ending burning fossil fuels. If there is no voice for that, the process will continue to be about where to place the deck chairs as the Titanic sinks.

This is NeoLiberal wonk talk. But what it is is all the previous people spending hours trying to untie the Gordian Knot.

It’s time for Alexander to just cut it.

It’s Star Fleet Cadets continually learning how to be defeated in the Kobayashi Maru.

It’s time for Kirk to reprogram the scenario.


I have to read up on what the Overton Window is exactly (I see the Wikipedia article which states Overton deliberately put the window vertical to remove it from a left-right framing), but I think I understand what you are saying and I do not subscribe to that theory so I won’t be joining you. This reminds me of the Earth First discussions I used to have with friends in the early 80s. They would say they liked the Earth First model of asking/demanding for the Moon (e.g., every square inch of public land in Utah becoming a wilderness area) and then getting a compromise that is closer to what they actually want (because they didn’t even want that). I do not think this is an effective strategy because the other side assails you for being fringe ad/or crazy (and we would do the same to them if they say 100% of the public land should be opened up to ORVs). No, I want to go in with a clearly thought out intellectually solid position and sometimes compromise, sometimes not. In the case of Medicare for All, I’m not interested in some public option nonsense that is going to fail and make the actual concept look bad. I want to fight for the whole thing - but that is the solid position - that is what can (and hopefully will) work. I refuse to go in demanding something that absolutely won’t work.

And to call a carbon tax a conservative position - ok, I guess I think some conservative positions are good then, if that means a prudent scheme that has a good chance of working.

I am willing to ban somethings starting tomorrow (or more realistically in a 1-2 year window). These would include certain pesticides that are bad for human health or animal health (especially bees). I am willing to ban crazy financial instruments that make no sense for market stability. I am not willing to ban carbon tomorrow or anything short of 15 years (though I hope our output is considerably less in 15 years - and I think a carbon tax if it is high enough is our best chance of getting there).


As someone with experience in regulatory compliance here in California, I don’t think people really understand what it takes to develop rules, models for accountability, etc. California passed a law in 2013 that issued a new metric to reduce GHG emissions in transportation projects, and frankly, implementation has been a mightmare. A tight deadline (that got moved once) is going to turn into another I predict, while a lot of local jurisdictions are confused and spending money on an idea much harder to implement in practice than environmental advocates proclaimed.

Now, people are getting angry and all the positive ideals are fading. I have zero doubt the law will be changed and timelines altered, if not by the legislature, then by voters. It’s disheartening, but it’s a lesson in asking for the moon, getting it, and finding that it’s not so spectacular. I know it’s not popular here, but sometimes incremental and pragmatic approaches really are better.


As it turns out, of the 3 basic EV drive trains - All-battery BEV, hybrid PHEV, hydrogen fuel cell FCEV - the one with the most potential to reduce fuel/energy consumption and emissions, is, wait for it, PHEV. Combustible hydrogen stores and operates at lower pressures than required for hydrogen fuel cell EVs which have drawbacks similar to BEVs, fewer economic disincentives (taxes, fuel prices) and fewer positive incentives (household PV+EV backup power supply) to drive less. After one actually “Questions Internal Combustion” one learns many reasons why PHEVs should dominate the EV market. BEVs would serve 30% of entire EV fleets. PHEVs 60% or so. The ideal BEV can be summed-up thus: The Smart Car that ain’t electric, ain’t smart. (Small battery pack BEV, least range disincentive, broader energy distribution).


If you remove Ayn Rand and Goldman Sachs out of the equation you can begin to consider compromises.