Taking oil companies to task - May 01, 2008
Those big oil companies, they’re just not doing enough to cut carbon emissions. But don’t take my word for it.
The Rockefeller family have a bone to pick with Exxon Mobil, the company that grew out of their ancestor’s oil giant Standard Oil, over its failure to give greater backing to alternative energy. “They are fighting the last war and they're not seeing they’re facing a new war,” says Peter O’Neill, great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller (Chicago Tribune).
Although the Rockefellers don’t own a huge amount of Exxon, their attack is likely to cause some embarrassment to the company, given the weight that still attaches to their name. Again though, don’t take my word for it.
“Clearly this has more impact than coming from a corporate activist who owns five shares,” says Buie Seawell, chairman of the department of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business (Denver Post). “The name gives a lot of credibility to what they’re doing, and it’s significant that the family has a historic equity stake.”
Slate has a thoughtful piece on the Rockefellers’ stance, noting:
...the Rockefellers, of all families, should know that Exxon Mobil is unlikely to have much success ushering in a new energy paradigm that will change the world for the better. Virtually all the good works conducted by John D. Rockefeller, and by his descendants, have been done by the nonprofit foundations and philanthropic institutions he created, not by the efficiency-seeking, for-profit machine he built. What’s more, a company that depends on an established technology rarely has the incentives or ability to lead a shift to the technology that will upend the old way.
Perhaps the best part of this story is the revisionism that paints John D. as a pioneer of alternative energy. Neva Rockefeller Goodwin says “Kerosene was the alternative energy of that day, when my great grandfather realised it could replace whale oil. Part of his genius was in recognising early on the need and opportunity for a transition to a better, cheaper, cleaner fuel” (6:20 in on this audio clip).
Also in the news today: unhappiness with another big oil company. Shell has pulled out of the London Array, ‘the world’s largest offshore wind farm’, which it was supposed to be building off the British coast along with fellow energy companies E.ON and Dong Energy.
“I believe that at the very least, some delay to the project is now inevitable,” says Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.ON UK (Times, Guardian, Daily Mail). “While we remain committed to the scheme, Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed.”
Shell is trying to sell its one third stake in the London Array. It is currently unclear who might be willing to buy it.
Image top: oil well and wind farm / US DoE
Image lower: John D.Rockefeller aged 18 / via Wikimedia
Lee R. Raymond, who retired from Exxon in December, was paid more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005.April 15, 2006BusinessSidebar
If Rex W. Tillerson has his way, Exxon Mobil will no longer be the oil company that environmentalists love to hate.March 30, 2006BusinessNews