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Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The American Petroleum Institute said Thursday that it supports putting a price on carbon emissions — a term that typically refers to emissions taxes or permit trading systems.

Why it matters: The new posture marks a major shift for the powerful K Street lobbying group, though signs of the endorsement emerged weeks ago.

  • And API aggressively fought a sweeping cap-and-trade bill that collapsed in the Senate a decade ago, as the Wall Street Journal points out.
  • The endorsement arrives as the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats are eyeing a suite of new climate change emissions that will affect the industry.
  • A number of the largest oil companies already support pricing, and it has been endorsed by economists including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The big picture: The pricing endorsement is part of a wider new climate policy from API as the industry looks to deal with the ascendance of Democrats who want to see the kinds of aggressive mandates and restrictions that the group has long opposed.

  • API's plan includes calling for federal efforts to speed commercial deployment of carbon capture tech, expanded clean energy R&D funding, direct regulation of methane emissions, and more.
  • It also says pricing should be "across all economic sectors while avoiding regulatory duplication."
  • "Confronting the challenge of climate change and building a lower-carbon future will require a combination of government policies, industry initiatives and continuous innovation," API President Mike Sommers said in a statement.

Yes, but: The political barriers to pricing are extremely high, and it remains to be seen whether the new API position will lead to more GOP backing for pricing.

  • And even if it does, their call for pairing a carbon price with avoiding other federal regulations has limited political traction at a time when the Biden administration, seeking steep emissions cuts, is planning new executive actions.
  • "What we’re not going to support is just putting a price on carbon or carbon tax or whatever it is on top of the existing regulatory regime," API's Sommers tells Bloomberg.
  • More broadly, while Democrats aren't ruling out pricing, they're putting much more emphasis on executive regulations combined with winning congressional approval for big spending increases on low-carbon infrastructure and funding to research and deploy emerging tech.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 24, 2021 - Energy & Environment

2030 is the new 2050 for emissions-cutting pledges

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Pledges to end net emissions by midcentury are now commonplace for big countries and companies, but several looming summits are putting a fresh focus on a much closer horizon.

Driving the news: U.S. officials intend to unveil a 2030 greenhouse gas emissions-cutting target under the Paris deal by April 22 — the date of a big summit Biden is hosting.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Mar 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

IEA: Coal consumption dropped 4% worldwide in 2020

Reproduced from IEA; Chart: Axios Visuals

New International Energy Agency analysis of coal consumption helps explain why global carbon emissions have rebounded so quickly from the pandemic-fueled drop.

The big picture: It notes that overall global coal consumption fell 4% in 2020, with reductions concentrated in the early part of the year.

U.S. charges 4 Belarus officials with air piracy in journalist's arrest

A Boeing 737-8AS Ryanair passenger planefrom Athens, Greece, that was diverted to Minsk, Belarus, in May. Photo: Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Thursday charged four Belarusian government officials with conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy as part of an operation to arrest a dissident Belarusian journalist.

Why it matters: Prosecutors say the officials fabricated a bomb threat aboard a Ryanair flight carrying the journalist Raman Pratasevich last May, forcing it to land in Minsk, Belarus instead.