Under former chairman Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil’s position on global warming tended toward the head in the sand perspective. With new chairman Rex Tillerson in place, the head is definitely being extracted. (see Houston Chronicle story) The question from a reputation stand point is was the sand tar sands–in other words, how dirty will the face of ExxonMobil be as it emerges?
Setting the record for profitability is a bit of a two edged sword when you are in the oil business. ExxonMobil is one of the most admired companies in the world by investors, financial managers and those who respect an incredibly disciplined and well-run organization. But, while making bookoo bucks makes the investors happy, it makes those who distrust big companies and particularly big oil companies feel justified in their view that all such companies care about is making money.
Lord Browne of BP recently commented that business needs to make money to stay in business, but the real business of business was to provide products or services that consumers need, want or demand. There is no question of all of our demand for oil products. John Hofmeister, CEO of Shell Oil Company recently said in Seattle that it is incumbent upon oil companies to better inform the public about the realities of global demand for energy and how that can and should be met in the future. Both of these statements need a much wider audience.
While it is very important that oil companies recognize the realities of stakeholder expectations (and good science), it is also very important that the media, our education institutions, our thought leaders, and fellow bloggers communicate the truth about energy. That truth is this: you cannot hate the people who supply what you need while you are busy gobbling up their products. My computer is on so I can blog because hundreds of thousands of good people around the world and working their butts off to try and deliver the energy you and I need and do so in a way that is most efficient. And now, more than ever, they are also working their butts off to make certain that delivery is not only efficient, but sustainable from a save the earth perspective. If you do not believe that, you clearly have not had the opportunity as I have over the past few years to talk to these people and see for yourself what they are doing.
I’m glad for the change I see in ExxonMobil–and also glad they are disciplined, hardworking and marvelously successful. It won’t change those who love to hate “big oil.” But nothing will change that, I am afraid, until they replace their wall socket with a gerbil in a cage running a generator.