Exxon leaves ALEC as both go their separate ways on climate change policies

By Chris White

Exxon Mobil broke ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council Thursday as the company and conservative group wrestle over disagreements related to global warming.

Exxon did not explain why its membership with the group expired. The company supports various policies designed to tackle man-made global warming, while ALEC is opposed to most carbon reducing policies.

“We review our memberships on an annual basis and this year have decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC, which expired at the end of June,” Exxon Mobil spokesman Scott Silvestri told reporters at The Hill Thursday.

The group has received support from billionaires Charles and David Koch in the past on free market policies.

“Organization government relations strategies change over time, and we have valued ExxonMobil’s work and leadership with ALEC on STEM education, among other issues,” ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling said.

Several companies have left ALEC in recent years. Royal Dutch Shell, Google, and Microsoft have cut off ties with the group over its position on climate change. Much of the dispute likely stems from the oil industry’s willingness to support various climate policies.

Exxon has backed a carbon tax for years, including under former CEO Rex Tillerson. Europe-based oil companies BP and Total want the U.S. to price carbon for “consistency” between the U.S. and Europe. 

A carbon tax would also encourage power utilities, at least in the short-term, to use more natural gas, which emits less carbon than coal. BP, Exxon, Total and Shell are all heavily invested in natural gas production and trading.

Oil companies are also putting money into green energy technologies, including solar, wind and biofuels. Exxon recently announced a major scientific breakthrough in its effort to commercialize algae-based biofuels.

ALEC does not directly lobby the federal government. The group’s corporate members instead push mostly state legislators on various policy matters, frequently through the use of carefully-crafted model legislation to be proposed in statehouses.

While Exxon has broadly supported some climate change mitigation, the company continues to wrestle with shareholder measures requiring the oil producer to report on financial risks that Obama-era climate regulations pose to the company.

Exxon opposed the resolution and lobbied individual investors to vote against the proposal at the company’s annual meeting. More than 60 percent of investors voted in support of the proposal — a similar proposal gained 38 percent support last year.

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Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR