Last week, House Democrats summoned Big Oil executives for a session of shaming that they hoped would recall the drubbing Big Tobacco executives took for their lies decades earlier.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), as is often the case, delivered one of the hearing’s most memorable lines: “I think one of the things that often gets lost in these conversations,” she said, “is that some of us have to actually live the future that you all are setting on fire for us.”

Memorable, yes. But if the goal was to maximize the chances of dousing that fire, here is what she should have said: “Thank you. We accept your offer.”

If you go to the website of the oil industry lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API), you will find this sentence: “Rather than a patchwork of federal and state regulations and mandates that could ineffectively address the climate challenge, an economywide government carbon price policy is the most impactful and transparent way to achieve meaningful progress.”

What does that mean? Simply that the oil industry has endorsed the most efficient, most effective policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system that would set a gradually rising price on oil, gas and coal. The result would be an entire economy incentivized to use less of those fuels and to promote innovations to wean us off them.

Of course, the industry’s commitment does not prove that oil executives are ready to put planet over profit. Maybe the insults the representatives flung their way are true. Maybe API adopted its position — very belatedly in March of this year — purely for public relations.

To which the right response would be: Who cares? Go ahead and pocket the offer and enact a carbon tax, tacking on a tariff on imported products so that U.S. manufacturers wouldn’t be at a disadvantage and foreign producers would have an incentive to put a price on carbon, too.

Instead, almost tragically, by the time the industry association saw the light, much of Washington had strayed from this most straightforward solution.

Progressive Democrats moved away from it because it was too market-oriented; they preferred government subsidies and mandates, and more direct aid to low-income communities hurt by past energy policies.

President Biden wouldn’t touch it because he had promised not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000. In reality, a carbon tax could have been designed consistent with that pledge. Many of the proposals that have been pending for years, such as one championed by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would return all the revenue from a carbon tax to taxpayers. If you divided that revenue equally, the vast majority of Americans would get more back than they spent in increased energy costs, leaving only the wealthiest (who use the most energy) worse off. But that wouldn’t have stopped Republicans from battering Democrats with accusations of tax hikes and broken promises.

Meanwhile, many Republicans, led by former president Donald Trump, had moved into outright denialism.

The result will be as API warns: “a patchwork of federal and state regulations and mandates that could ineffectively address the climate challenge.”

Please don’t misunderstand: The climate provisions in Biden’s proposed framework are vastly superior to doing nothing. As The Post reported, the $555 billion would be by far the most the United States has ever devoted to clean energy. Tax credits and subsidies would encourage people to buy electric vehicles and solar panels, manufacture wind turbines and take other steps which, together, would markedly reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Given the planetary emergency, the need to set an example for other countries, and the years of delay, missing this opportunity would be close to criminal.

But it remains the case that the framework will not reduce emissions enough, and it certainly won’t do it as efficiently as a price on carbon would. Inevitably the government will make some expensive wrong bets, slight some promising innovations, reward plenty of people who don’t need the help or the nudge to go green. A price on carbon, bolstered by substantial government investment in research and development, would avoid many of those pitfalls.

In politics, it can often be easier to cast a villain than to solve a problem, and certainly not many voters will shed a tear for the CEOs of ExxonMobil or Chevron. But Big Oil is not Big Tobacco. Cigarettes kill when used as directed and have no redeeming value. By contrast, all of us depend on oil and natural gas — and will continue to do so for years, no matter what policies Congress adopts.

The fastest way to change that would be for Congress to accept Big Oil’s offer. It might not make for good theater, but it would help save the Earth.