Elon Musk Floated the Idea of a Carbon Tax to Trump, an Official Says

  • Issue raised at White House meeting this week on manufacturing
  • Idea has been backed by secretary of state nominee Tillerson

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Tesla Motors Inc. founder Elon Musk is pressing the Trump administration to adopt a tax on carbon emissions, raising the issue directly with President Donald Trump and U.S. business leaders at a White House meeting Monday regarding manufacturing.

A senior White House official said Musk floated the idea of a carbon tax at the meeting but got little or no support among the executives at the White House, signaling that Trump’s conservative political orbit remains tepid on the issue. 

Musk, also CEO of SpaceX, has publicly supported Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. While chief executive at Exxon, Tillerson acknowledged the climate is changing and described a carbon tax as the most efficient means of embedding the cost of carbon in economic decisions from oil companies to consumers. 

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Exxon Mobil has lobbied on Capitol Hill for a revenue-neutral carbon tax to take the place of an array of environmental regulations that raise the cost of fossil fuels.

A carbon tax could be imposed on oil, gas and coal companies, or on gasoline or homeowners’ power bills. To make it revenue-neutral and to avoid an undue burden on the poor, money raised by carbon taxes could be returned to taxpayers, possibly through periodic dividends.

The issue divides the oil industry, with several other large integrated companies also favoring a carbon tax, even though it is being fought by many independent producers that lack pipeline and refining operations.

Although a carbon tax has long been favored by some economists as the most straightforward way to put a cost on carbon dioxide, it is eschewed by many of the conservative advocates guiding Trump’s energy and environment policy.

— With assistance by Dana Hull

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