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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

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.