Elon Musk Floats Carbon Tax Idea With Donald Trump

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is using his new working relationship with President Donald Trump to push the notion of a carbon tax, but so far it hasn’t gone too well.

A senior White House official said Musk proposed a carbon tax Monday during a meeting with Trump and U.S. business leaders at a White House meeting focused on manufacturing. Bloomberg reported that the idea received little-to-no support from the executives at the meeting.

Trump has been conservative about these issues, opposing the concept of climate change. A carbon tax would be framed around the theory that CO2 is destructive to the environment, and the tax would bring economic incentives for an oil company or other polluters to reduce their carbon emissions.

Another automotive executive, Ford CEO Mark Fields, also attended the meeting.

Musk has also been working on another strategy for gaining support for a carbon tax with the Trump administration. He’d made contact on social media with Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

During his time as CEO at Exxon, Tillerson supported a carbon tax as the best way to get oil companies and consumers to make economic decisions based on the rising cost of carbon that a tax would bring. He also acknowledged that the climate is changing.

Exxon Mobil has lobbied in Washington for what’s called a “revenue-neutral” carbon tax to take the place of several environmental regulations that oil companies say raise the cost of fossil fuels. If a carbon tax were to be given to oil, gas, and coal companies, or through gasoline taxes or homeowners’ power bills, it could become revenue neutral by returning it to taxpayers, possibly through periodic dividend payments.

Any sort of carbon tax has been divisive in the oil industry. Several other large companies favor it, and it’s been fought my many independent producers.

In December, Trump invited Musk to be a member of his Strategic and Policy Forum that frequently will advise him on economic issues and jobs growth. Musk joined up with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and several other top-ranking executives from U.S. companies. Trump’s transition team said they’ll be part of a forum that is composed of “some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders.”

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While Musk had endorsed Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton just prior to the November election, he seems to be looking into opportunities as one of the new president’s economic advisers.

Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, might be open to the carbon tax idea and another channel for Musk to tap into. Pruitt is known to be supportive of oil companies, and may take oil executives’ opinions seriously on implementing a carbon tax.

During his Senate hearing earlier this month, Pruitt said he disagreed with Trump and doesn’t think climate change is a hoax; but Pruitt’s not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity like vehicle emissions.

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