Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Founders Be Damned: Exxon Mobil Plans To Worship Crude Another 30 Years!

Despite pleas from the families of two of its founders, Exxon Mobil’s stockholders voted in Dallas yesterday by a 60% majority to retain as chairman and CEO a wealthy executive who actually believes the world can survive another 30 years with crude as king.

Descendants of John D. Rockefeller, 19th-century founder of Exxon Mobil predecessor Standard Oil Corp., sought to strip Rex Tillerson of the chairmanship role, because they think he has focused too much on short-term gains from soaring oil prices, when the company’s long-term viability depends on moving more quickly to sustainable alternatives.

The Rockefeller family members were supported by several influential proxy advisory firms, treasurers of California, Connecticut and Maryland, several British pension funds and other institutional investors.

Speaking for them before the meeting, William Thompson Jr., who as city comptroller oversees New York City’s retirement system assets, said “Exxon Mobil has long evinced a culture of defiance and indifferent to many important concerns of long-term shareholders.”

But the proposal got only 39.5% of the vote, down slightly from the 40% it got last year. This is the seventh year in a row the proposal has failed.

Tillerson also faced opposition from
descendants of Robert Lee Blaffer, co-founder of Humble Oil, another Exxon Mobil predecessor. In an op-ed piece in last Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, his granddaughter Jane Dale Owen called on the shareholders to “Top off Exxon Mobil’s greed.” Owen wrote:

My family members and I are shareholders in Exxon Mobil, and many of us are very concerned about the devastating effect the largest privately held oil company in the world is having on the health of people living near our refineries and chemical plants, and on the planet.

In the Political Economy Research Institute's recent "Toxic 100" report released in April, Exxon Mobil ranks 10th among the worst corporate toxic polluters in the United States. This is unacceptable considering the company's huge profits.

My grandfather would also be dismayed by Exxon Mobil's long-standing denial of the industry's contribution to global warming and lack of efforts to diversify and move toward more sustainable energy solutions.

Other family members and I believe greed, arrogance and short-term thinking have led Exxon Mobil to jeopardize the company's reputation and put the planet, human health and our investments at risk.

We join with the Exxon Enough! coalition in calling on Exxon Mobil management to:

• Undertake health surveys of all the people living in communities where the company has facilities, on the Texas Gulf Coast and elsewhere, and to provide for relocation and on-going health care for people living near its facilities.

• Accept the necessity of a windfall war profits tax.

• Invest in alternative energy sources and alternative transportation systems as a way of reducing global warming.

My family and I are saying to Exxon: Enough of your pollution that harms the health of the people living near your refineries and plants; enough of your war-profiteering; enough of your excess profits while we pay outrageous prices for gas; enough of your denial that burning petroleum products fuels global warming; and enough of your lack of foresight, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

The founders’ families recognize that the greed of Exxon Mobil’s shareholders imperils not only the future of the company but the viability of the planet. But the shareholders still turn a deaf ear.

Of course they also decline to listen to New York Times columnist
Thomas Friedman, who warns almost weekly that our lack of a national energy policy will destroy the United States’ economy and political power before it destroys the globe.

The same day that the Exxon Mobil shareholders voted for more of the same, Friedman was applauding that with gas at $4 a gallon, oil was at last at a price that might make energy alternatives more economically desirable. He ridiculed those who would act as enablers of higher American oil consumption:

Cynical ideas, like the McCain-Clinton summertime gas-tax holiday, would only make the problem worse, and reckless initiatives like the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep offer to subsidize gasoline for three years for people who buy its gas guzzlers are the moral equivalent of tobacco companies offering discounted cigarettes to teenagers.

I can’t say it better than my friend Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics, did in a Memorial Day essay in The Washington Post: “So Dodge wants to sell you a car you don’t really want to buy, that is not fuel-efficient, will further damage our environment, and will further subsidize oil states, some of which are on the other side of the wars we’re currently fighting. ... The planet be damned, the troops be forgotten, the economy be ignored: buy a Dodge.”

Friedman concluded:

We need to make a structural shift in our energy economy. Ultimately, we need to move our entire fleet to plug-in electric cars. The only way to get from here to there is to start now with a price signal that will force the change.

Words Exxon Mobil’s founders’ families have taken to heart. How great a catastrophe will it take to convince its shareholder profiteers?

No comments: