Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, one of America’s biggest utility companies, sat down with me at last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado.

What he said: "If your objective is to put a price on carbon to manipulate carbon I don’t think that makes sense. If somebody says to me, ‘we have a gigantic federal deficit, and we need to raise taxes.’ Does a carbon tax make sense? Yeah I’d be more amenable to that conversation. That means I’m going to tax something in order to raise revenue. Taxing something to change behavior, there’s better ways to do that."

On renewables, which have grown from 1% of Southern’s mix in 2007 to 11% in 2018 (with much of that being solar), Fanning predicts renewables to reach 50% or higher by 2050.

  • When I commented that environmentalists have been pushing far more aggressive goals, Fanning replied: "Maybe we will get to 80% renewables. If you’re going to go that far you’re going to have to have significant storage technology."

On cybersecurity, an issue Fanning works on with the government, Fanning said: "The existential threat goes to the ability for, probably, a nation state … that likely would be China, Russia, North Korea and Iran to interrupt American commerce. To prevent, making, moving or selling electricity, and prevent undertaking of electronic commerce and communicating.”

  • What are the chances of that happening, I asked. "Low," Fanning responded." We have a very resilient system: Physically resilient and I think cyber resilient."

Go deeper

Mergers and acquisitions make a comeback

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A slew of high-profile headlines led by Microsoft's expected acquisition of social media video app TikTok helped bring the Nasdaq to another record high on Monday.

Why it matters: The mergers-and-acquisitions market looks like it's bouncing back, joining the revived credit and equity markets as well as the market for new public companies through IPOs and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs).

U.S. Chamber of Commerce warns of racial inequality for small businesses

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Attitudes and beliefs about racial inequality are changing quickly as protests and media attention have helped highlight the gaps in opportunity between white- and minority-owned businesses in the United States.

Driving the news: A new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife provided early to Axios shows a 17-point increase in the number of small business owners who say minority-owned small businesses face more challenges than non-minority-owned ones.

BP's in the red, slashing its dividend and vowing a greener future

Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

BP posted a $6.7 billion second-quarter loss and cut its dividend in half Tuesday while unveiling accelerated steps to transition its portfolio toward low-carbon sources.

Why it matters: The announcement adds new targets and details to its February vow to become a "net-zero" emissions company by mid-century.