The paper addresses the widespread pattern of exempting heavily polluting industries from greenhouse gas emission taxes. Two groups of explanations of exemptions are outlined. The first group focuses on the economic importance of exempted industries as the main explanatory factor. The second group of explanations is centered on factors that influence the political power and influence of emission intensive industries. These two groups of explanations are applied to understand the varying patterns of exemptions in Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark. It is argued that while some emission-intensive industries in Norway and the Netherlands are largely exempted from taxes, Danish emission-intensive industries enjoy exemptions to a more limited extent. This contrast is tried explained by applying explanations based on the economic importance and the political power and influence of these industries. The paper concludes that explanations based on the economic importance of exempted industries are very important to make us able to understand variations of exemptions. However, explanations based on factors that influence the political power of the exempted industries should also be investigated. In many cases, these factors supplement explanations based on economic importance, and in some cases produce outcomes that explanations based on the industry’s economic importance fail to account for.