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Koch Industries-linked group hosts pro-carbon tax meeting

The American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank with ties to Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, is taking intense heat from conservative commentators.

Why? For hosting a meeting in private with such "liberal" groups as the Union for Concerned Scientists and the Brookings Institute to discuss how to enact a national U.S. carbon tax.

"Disturbing reports are reaching us," reads an article posted to National Review Online earlier this week. "Even if AEI was just providing the venue, one has to ask: What are they thinking?!"

The schedule and list of participants for an event entitled "Price Carbon Campaign/Lame Duck Initiative" surfaced on Wednesday.

Session titles included "Detoxifying climate policy for conservatives"; "Framing and selling a carbon pollution tax"; and "Honing the case for a carbon pollution tax".

The event was exceptional for its bipartisan speaker's list, which ran the gamut from former Heartland Institute vice president Eli Lehrer to Climate Action Network board member Kevin Curtis.

News of the event provoked strong reactions from some conservative commentators.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell, who was once described as "one of America’s most prominent climate-change skeptics", sent out an email alert about the meeting, arguing, "We must kill this incredibly harmful idea as quickly as possible."

This rift is somewhat surprising, given that the American Enterprise Institute has openly disputed the scientific basis for climate change.

The Guardian reported in 2007, for instance, that the think tank, which has been funded by ExxonMobil, had offered climate scientists $10,000 each "to undermine a major climate change report."

The American Enterprise Institute also received $150,000 total in grants from Koch Industries, widely considered a founding force of the Tea Party, according to a Greenpeace report.

"AEI has a long track record of distorting the science and solutions of climate change," the Greenpeace report concluded.

"In recent years, AEI has been accused of being both in the pocket of energy companies and organizing to advocate a carbon tax," Kevin Hassett, the think tank's director of economy policy studies, said in a statement. "Neither is true. AEI has been, and will continue to be, an intellectually curious place."

News of the meeting comes this week as former Republican congressperson Bob Inglis launched a campaign "urging conservatives to stop denying that humans are contributing to global warming."

Click here to read an in-depth Tyee report explaining why some of Canada's leading oil sands companies support a national carbon tax.

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change for The Tyee.

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