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Photo: Vincent Isore/Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell is sitting out a multi-million dollar fight over a carbon fee proposal in Washington state even as nearly all other oil companies with operations there rally to oppose it.

Why it matters: It’s a sign of the oil industry’s uneven, years-long evolution toward supporting policies that put a price on carbon emissions. And whether Washington State voters support the initiative, which is on the state-wide ballot this Election Day, will be a bellwether for other attempts at big climate policy.

Driving the news: In an interview with Axios on the sidelines of a conference in New York Monday, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden criticized aspects of the proposal, but nonetheless said his company isn’t going to fight it. He indicated Shell won't join an industry campaign, funded by BP and others, to oppose it.

“ It’s a price on carbon, so it ought to be a good thing. This fee has some imperfections. It doesn’t, in my mind, win any beauty contests the way it has been designed. ... But we’re not going to fight it. Let me be very clear on that as well.”
— Ben van Beurden, CEO, Shell

Between the lines: van Beurden’s comments reflect a subtle but significant shift. It may seem trivial to casual observers when stakeholders in any fight opt to not oppose something. But it’s a sign of evolving stances and could make a difference in the overall outcome, both because of the lack of monetary support and also the symbolism of Shell opting not to fight it.

He said he didn’t like how the proposal excludes several other major emitters, including aluminum plants and a coal plant. That’s one big reason why BP, which like Shell has a refinery in the state, is helping fund a campaign fighting the proposal. Other companies funding the campaign include refiner Phillips 66 and Chevron.

  • The industry campaign has more than $20 million in contributions so far.
  • The campaign supporting the initiative has roughly $5.6 million in contributions. Organizers of the effort say the coal plant is already set to shut down, and some industries particularly vulnerable to trade competitiveness are exempted to ensure that related jobs remain in Washington.

Yes, but: Shell's decision to abstain from the fight is unlikely to win it much praise from critics. Many environmentalists say that despite oil executives rhetorically supporting carbon prices for years and backing groups that do, the companies don’t push for the policy on Capitol Hill or anywhere else where it’s a live issue — like in Washington state.

Go deeper: Big Oil teeters between enemy and ally in climate fight

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

Florida records most new daily COVID cases in state since pandemic began

Nurses bring a portable x-ray machine to a treatment tent outside the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, set up to serve as an overflow area as the number of COVID-19 infections surges throughout Brevard County. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases — the most in the state in a single day since the pandemic began, per data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday.

The big picture: Florida is now the U.S. coronavirus epicenter, with the Delta variant driving a surge, Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery notes.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans tested positive for COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and state Covid dashboards. Dani Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001% have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.

Biden officials celebrate infrastructure deal in fuel-cell big rig

White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm celebrated progress on President Biden's infrastructure package by taking a spin in a Kenworth fuel-cell, zero-emissions Class A truck.

What they're saying: "We have a deal, a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework deal," Granholm said. McCarthy responded: "it's big and it's beautiful."