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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Strategic CSR - Exxon

The article in the url below contains good news from Exxon:
"Exxon Mobil Corp. is ramping up its lobbying of other energy companies to support a carbon tax, marking a shift in the oil giant's approach to climate change as the industry faces growing pressure to address the politically charged issue."
The shift is not in terms of policy, but the level of effort Exxon is willing to invest in bringing about a carbon tax:
"Exxon's official position has long been the same—a carbon tax is the best way to address the risks of warming temperatures—but it has done little to actively advocate for that goal in recent years. Lately, Exxon has been making the case with its U.S. counterparts to support a carbon tax, arguing that the industry must not oppose all climate policies, according to people familiar with Exxon's thinking."
In spite of what you might think due to the company's ongoing tussle with the NY Attorney General, the article reports that Exxon's interest appears to be genuine:
"Top Exxon officials have been more vocal about their support for a carbon tax and have met with Capitol Hill offices about related legislation, according to the company's recent lobby disclosure forms. For the past six months, Exxon has been asserting its position more in meetings within trade associations, including the American Petroleum Institute and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, according to multiple reports from people who have attended meetings with Exxon officials."
The cynical side of me is guessing Exxon's enthusiasm is based on its relative efficiency. In other words, if costs are pushed up for the industry as a whole, they will have a greater impact on less efficient companies, while more efficient companies (such as Exxon) will be better able to absorb the additional costs. This is why Walmart has long-supported an increase in the minimum wage – the firm pays above industry average and is more efficient than its competitors. The fear for companies with low-cost business-level strategies (such as Exxon and Walmart) is that costs will be implemented selectively or that they will be pressured to voluntarily take on additional costs to which other firms are not exposed. A carbon tax, of course, represents an increase in costs relative to the amount of carbon produced (and sold).
Having said that, a carbon tax is uniformly recognized by economists to be the best way to tackle climate change. Similarly, any solution to the consumption of fossil fuels has to involve the biggest industry players. As such, the fact that Exxon is willing to raise its public profile in support of a tax is absolutely a step in the right direction. In an ideal world, Exxon, and BP, and Shell, and Chevron, etc., will be incentivized by their stakeholders to shift their efforts (in particular, R&D) towards renewable energies, and shift quickly.
After that, we can work out what to do about the really big players in the global energy markets – the state backed companies, such as Aramco (Saudi Arabia), Sinopec (China), and Gazprom (Russia). As I said, in an ideal world …. And, suddenly, we are in a world that is far from ideal.
Take care
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Exxon Touts Carbon Tax to Rivals
By Amy Harder and Bradley Olsen
July 1, 2016
The Wall Street Journal
Late Edition – Final