Arguing that environmental concerns are becoming increasingly difficult to address, progressive shareholders are pressuring Exxon to add directors with climate change expertise. The company has received repeated criticism that it had failed to properly cut carbon emissions.
Despite the overwhelming critique that Exxon Mobil has recently gotten, Rex Tillerson, the company’s CEO has defended Exxon’s unchanged route. He argued that there is insufficient proof in current climate models to clearly justify the need for a shift away from fossil fuels.
Instead of having to focus on renewable energy, Tillerson told his shareholders at an annual meeting in Dallas, the world should wait for definitive results and feasible solutions addressing the effects of climate change.
But while greenhouse gas reduction proposals have become commonplace at oil company meetings, Wednesday marked an all-time-first. Exxon’s shareholders were presented with the opportunity of choosing an independent member of the board of directors. And he should have been a climate expert.
The Exxon board rejected the proposal though, claiming that a number of board members had studied engineering or had come from scientific backgrounds. Such climate issue knowledge would suffice, the board claims, to handle any issues.
Exxon has recently been experiencing steep profit declines reflecting the decreasing prices of crude oil. During Wednesday’s meeting, Tillerson hinted that Exxon will stay-the-course and only deal with the effects of climate change when they become evident.
“Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity, and those solutions will present themselves as those challenges become clear,” Exxon’s CEO stated.
The proposal for Exxon was sponsored by Father Mike Crosby, a member of an organization of Catholic Priests living in Milwaukee. According to Crosby, oil companies should have realized the harm they were doing decades ago.
On the other hand, oil companies have acknowledged that there is a need to address climate change and how greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to its effects. However, the technology required to efficiently and economically capture carbon emissions isn’t yet available. They insist that it will take decades for such technology to be developed.
But while Exxon and other companies are attempting to continue making profits despite experts’ warnings, there are hints that the world may be changing. Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi Arabian minister has already made several statements suggesting that his country has been actively preparing for a shift towards renewable energy.
During a conference in Paris, Al-Naimi stated that Saudi Arabia wished to become the world leader in solar energy.
Similarly, European oil companies have also started to invest small amounts in renewable energy, leaving Exxon the last-man-standing. Shell and Total are rumored to already be discussing a strategy.
Exxon received additional proposals, from reducing carbon emissions from its products to producing reports on the practices of the company’s hydraulic-fracturing practices. Yet all proposals drew virtually no support.
In the end, Tillerson argued against Father Crosby’s statements that Exxon had failed to direct any portion of the $34 billion in investment towards renewable energy. In his opinion, renewable energy can only survive at immense costs and on the backs of unsustainable government mandates. Exxon, Tillerson said, refuses to lose money on purpose.
Image Source: CBS
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