Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods calls for a higher price on carbon

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Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods would like the U.S. government to help incentivize some of the clean energy innovations his company is developing, like biofuels and direct air capture of carbon dioxide.

In an interview with CNBC’s David Faber, the leader of one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world said direct air capture, or the process of pulling carbon from the atmosphere, is in his mind “the holy grail.” He continued, “if you can overcome some of those technology hurdles, get your cost down, you’ve got a technology then that can address this in a very cost-efficient way.” The company estimates the market to capture and store carbon dioxide will be worth $4 trillion by 2050.

There is a current price on carbon dioxide sequestration listed in the IRS tax code and known as the 45Q tax credit, but it tops out at $50 per ton captured and stored. Exxon Mobil would prefer a price of at least $100 per ton.

Woods recognized a higher carbon price could be a difficult political accomplishment and suggested policies focused on specific market sectors could be a good start.

Proposing a carbon tax has been a point of controversy for Exxon Mobil. Keith McCoy, a former Exxon lobbyist, was once caught on camera saying that he did not believe a carbon tax was going to happen, but that it “gives us a talking point that we can say, ‘well what is Exxon Mobil for? Well, we’re for a carbon tax.'” After the tape was released, Exxon said McCoy no longer worked for the company and disavowed his statements.

When CNBC’s Faber asked Woods if he thought carbon capture could be a key profit generator in 25 years, he said it could be. He was encouraged by the clean energy conversation expanding beyond wind and solar and sees growth potential for Exxon Mobil in the future.

McCoy did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Watch the full interview in the video above and see the full documentary, “Exxon Mobil at the Crossroads,” on YouTube, Peacock and CNBC.com.

Kathy Liu contributed to this report.

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