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Here’s How the Oil Industry Plans to Solve Climate Change

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The fossil fuel industry is pushing lawmakers to implement a tax on carbon emissions, but environmentalists are skeptical of its newfound support for climate action.

Representatives from dozens of American businesses descended on Washington, D.C., this week to urge lawmakers to take action on climate change—by implementing a tax on those businesses’ carbon emissions. Not long ago, carbon taxes—which charge polluters a set fee per ton of emissions—seemed like a dead end for politicians and environmentalists seeking solutions for the climate crisis. Now even the fossil fuel industry is on board: Oil giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell both pledged $1 million each to Americans for Carbon Dividends, the lobbying arm of the right-leaning Climate Leadership Council, which is pushing for a tax-and-dividend plan that would give the taxes collected back to American households.

It’s a major shift for the oil industry, which is facing several lawsuits for its role in both causing global warming and trying to sow doubt about its existence. As far back as 1965, Frank Ikard, the president of the biggest trade association for the industry in the United States, the American Petroleum Institute, warned the body about the “catastrophic consequences” of carbon pollution from fossil fuels, and said it would make finding alternative fuels a “national necessity.” Still, oil companies spent the ensuing decades funding a campaign of climate denial to block regulations. But as public opinion on global warming has shifted from agnosticism to alarm, oil companies have begun embracing market-based solutions.

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