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  • Title
    CEO; CEO
  • Affiliation
    American Petroleum Institute; Occidental Petroleum

In March, when the American Petroleum Institute announced its support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, reactions ranged from outright disbelief to profound suspicion. The API is the oil and gas industry’s top lobbying group, representing tiny wildcat drillers, giant multinationals like Chevron and Exxon, and everything in between, and it has long been famous for vehement (and effective) opposition to regulations aimed at curbing climate change. But under Sommers, a former financial lobbyist and chief of staff to House Speaker John Boehner who took the reins in 2018, the API has changed course, recognizing that a hardline stance has become a liability for the industry as more investors and consumers (as well as governments) demand action to preserve the planet. Now the API is backing market-based solutions like carbon taxes and uniform, industrywide standards for reporting emissions—with the aim of giving its members a predictable set of rules to operate under as they undergo a long-term green transition.

The API is also throwing its weight behind carbon capture and storage (CCS), a promising but nascent technology that aims to trap CO2 at its emission sources and sequester it. It’s a transitional technology that would enable polluters to shrink their atmospheric carbon footprint as they gradually wean themselves from fossil fuels. Many oil giants are pursuing CCS, but none has gone farther than Occidental. Under Vicki Hollub’s leadership, Oxy has won federal subsidies for the technology, and is now building air-capture plants that Hollub says will help the company be a “net-zero” emitter by 2040.