US: Exxon investors reject green initiatives

The world's biggest oil company emerged bruised but victorious from a
bust-up with the billionaire Rockefeller family yesterday as an effort
to foist green initiatives on ExxonMobil failed to capture
wholehearted support from shareholders.

Preliminary figures suggested 39.5% of Exxon's investors backed a
motion demanding the appointment of an independent chairman to
stimulate debate about global warming on the board. A resolution to
limit Exxon's greenhouse gas emissions won 30.9%, while a policy
backing renewable energy won 27.4%.

The poll, at the company's annual meeting in Dallas, demonstrated that
a sizeable chunk of Exxon's investor base is uncomfortable with the
Texas-based company's hardline attitude towards climate change and
alternative energy.

But the environmental vote barely rose from last year's level, in a
disappointment to the Rockefellers, who have campaigned vigorously for
change. The family describes itself as Exxon's longest-standing
shareholder - the company's roots lie in the Standard Oil empire
founded by their ancestor, John D Rockefeller.

Protesters wielded banners outside the meeting in Dallas with slogans
such as "People before profits" and "Oil: the new Black
Death". A small plane towed a banner urging a boycott of the firm
and police used sniffer dogs amid tighter security.

Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive, said he took critics
seriously and insisted Exxon was aware of the threat of climate
change: "We have the same concern as people around the world - to
provide the world with its energy needs while reducing harmful

But Tillerson repeated Exxon's mantra that the demand for energy was
set to rise 40% by 2030 and that oil and gas would have to meet 60% of
this. Arguing that renewables lacked technological scale, he said
"meaningful environmental improvements" would come from more
efficient ways of delivering existing fuels.

His remarks failed to satisfy environmentalists. One, Stephen
Viederman, accused Exxon's directors of leaving their responsibilities
at the door. "Exxon is acting like a dinosaur in not adapting ...
ExxonMobil-asaurus will disappear," he said.

Exxon's assumptions of future energy consumption were questioned by
the Rockefellers, who suggested projected growth in demand from
developing countries could not materialise if those nations faced
catastrophes from global warming.

Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, an economist, called Exxon's approach
"significantly flawed". "If energy technologies develop
at the pace demonstrated by telecoms or the internet over past
decades, they will seriously undermine Exxon's assumptions in demand
for petroleum."

Exxon's board
stonewalled almost every question by simply referring shareholders to
the company's written responses.
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