House Energy Chairman Upton: Exxon’s support for carbon tax isn’t ‘very serious’

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) suggested Monday that Exxon Mobil Corp. isn’t pushing lawmakers especially hard for a carbon tax despite the company’s public embrace of the idea.

“I don’t think it is a very serious effort on their part,” Upton said on Fox News. Upton said he told Exxon representatives personally that it’s a nonstarter.

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“I sat down with the Exxon folks a couple of months ago and let it be known that this is not a proposal that, certainly under Speaker Boehner [R-Ohio], is going to be coming through in the House,” he said.

Upton made the comments when asked about support for a carbon tax from Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell.

However, a tax isn’t Shell’s preferred option. Shell, in a joint statement in November with a range of businesses, affirmed its support for somehow creating a cost for carbon emissions.

But the company said its preferred approach for pricing carbon is a more flexible system such as pollution permit trading under an emissions cap (known as cap-and-trade). Exxon, in contrast, says a tax would be better policy.

“Combined with further advances in energy efficiency and new technologies spurred by market innovation, a well-designed carbon tax could play a significant role in addressing the challenge of rising emissions,” an Exxon spokeswoman told Bloomberg in November.

Upton opposes cap-and-trade legislation, which collapsed in Congress in 2010, and carbon tax proposals that some advocates say should be part of fiscal policy talks.

“It is not going to come from the Republicans,” he said Monday of carbon taxes. “We are going to do our very best to make sure that this is not a mole that pops up again.”

The Obama administration says it will never propose a carbon tax, but hasn’t ruled out considering the idea if it comes from Republicans. But GOP leaders on Capitol Hill have uniformly rejected the concept.

Carbon-tax proposals have, however, gained traction in climate policy circles of late despite the dim political prospects.

For instance, former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), who recently launched a new energy program at George Mason University, is pushing for a tax on fossil fuel production that would be offset by reductions in income taxes.

Upton, on Fox, reiterated his opposition to carbon taxes, arguing they would push U.S. jobs overseas.

“We, as Americans, would pay a higher cost and none of the rest of the world would. Talk about a bad idea,” he said.