Donald Trump appoints former CEO of Exxon as Secretary of State

From ToxicLeaks

Everybody had his or her own idea about what Donald Trump would really do if elected. The optimists believed that he would water down his stands and that his policy would actually be much more moderate than the promises he made on the campaign trail. The optimists therefore believed that if elected, Donald Trump would, albeit begrudgingly, acknowledge the danger of global warming and our current consumption of fossil fuels, and steer the economy towards energy and environmental transition. The pessimists believed that an elected Donald Trump would do quite the opposite and would establish a policy beneficial to short term gains in the fossil fuel industry and especially the coal industry and the shale gas and oil industry. However, with the appointment of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, it appears that even the pessimists were too optimistic, because Donald Trump has thrown the foreign policy of the United States of America into the hands of the former CEO of ExxonMobil. This decision is the worst Trump could possibly make, because the United States will have a crucial part in determining the fate of the Paris agreement.

An Exxon man to the last[edit | edit source]

Rex Tillerson has worked for Exxon all his life. He graduated from the University of Texas in 1975 and the joined immediately the oil company as a production engineer. He climbed the ladder quickly and was promoted to general manager of the company’s oil production in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas in 1989. During the 1990’, his rise within Exxon continued and he was chosen to lead several Exxon operations abroad, mainly in Yemen and in Russia, where he made many friends as we will see later. In 2001, Tillerson became senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corporation and he climbed the last step in 2006 when he was elected CEO of the company. So Tillerson has really seen nothing else than Exxon during his career and now Donald Trump is going to let him manage the U.S foreign affairs ? Worse than that, without even mentioning what a filthy, environmental criminal company Exxon is, one very scary news item in this appointment is that Rex Tillerson may be retiring from this position as CEO of Exxon, but he will keep some very binding ties with the company. And we’re not talking about the good old times he enjoyed with his buddies when they wrecked the environment getting rich and it was all such good fun. We’re talking about financial ties to Exxon Mobil that create a gigantic conflict of interest. These ties are the shares of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson will receive as a compensation for a lifetime of service. Two million shares. Yeah that many. Worth around $185 million. But here’s the thing. Rex Tillerson can’t receive the shares just yet because Exxon Mobil has a very long vesting schedule and therefore Tillerson will only gain access to the shares after he becomes Secretary of State. Meanwhile, who can believe that he would make any foreign policy decision that might have an adverse effect on Exxon Mobil, when one knows that it would lessen the worth of these shares ? Knowing Trump’s TV background, we all knew we should expect some foolishness in the decisions he would make as president, but this kind of buffoonery ? I don’t believe anyone had the capacity to predict it. And it gets worse, much worse.

A career at a company that has been sowing doubt about climate change for decades[edit | edit source]

What does the career of Rex Tillerson say of his beliefs ? They reveal that he has fought all his life to prevent the rise of awareness about global warming and a smooth economic transition towards a more sustainable path to development. Seven years before Tillerson joined Exxon, in 1968, that company learned in a report conducted by Stanford scientists that the emission of carbon dioxide by the burning of fossil fuel would lead to growing concentration of that gas in the atmosphere. This would in turn lead to global warming, the melting of ice caps and the rise of sea levels. This means that half a century ago, Exxon’s executive knew the extent of the damage they were inflicting on our environment and therefore on us all. And not only did they refuse to stop exploiting fossil fuels and shift their activities towards cleaner sources of energy, they also intentionally deceived the public by funding disinformation through many channels such as pseudo-scientific research, to slow down the legitimate scientific research on climate change and therefore the subsequent legislation that might affect their activities and their bottom line. This disinformation relied on the argument on uncertainty. For decades, Exxon’s funded “research” stressed the idea that there could be no sure conclusion on the phenomenon of climate change and that therefore no action could be taken until the science had established firmer ground. However, this argument appears to be some kind of obscene joke given that Exxon already knew about the dangers of global warming in 1968, well before other actors of research ! Furthermore, Exxon lobbyists conducted vicious attacks against esteemed scientists they claimed had "political and scientific bias" such as Michael MacCracken, the chief federal scientist for global warming research in the 1990’. This intense lobbying took the form of the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a super lobby made up of actors of the oil and automobile field. An article co-authored by Harvard climate science historian Naomi Oreskes explains the goal of this coalition : "From 1989 to 2002, the GCC led an aggressive lobbying and advertising campaign aimed at achieving these goals by sowing doubt about the integrity of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the scientific evidence that heat-trapping emissions from burning fossil fuels drive global warming". The result of this lobbying effort ? The United States pulled out of the Kyoto agreement and never ratified the deal, which made us lose twenty years in the fight against global warming ! Today, Exxon is facing charges in the states of California and New York because the company lied and worked against policies that could have helped mitigate this impending disaster that is global warming. Tillerson was part of that system and he contributed during his whole career to the actions of Exxon. That is the collective responsibility that he carries in part. But he also has a personal responsibility because at the end of his career, he occupied seats of power and he took many decisions that had a very negative effect on the state of the planet and that slowed down the ecological and energetic transition we so desperately need.

Tillerson’s personal responsibility[edit | edit source]

Tillerson became CEO of Exxon in 2006. Now some might say that he was the most progressive CEO the company had ever had, because he gave a speech in 2009 supporting the idea of a carbon tax. That was quite a groundbreaking stand for a CEO of a company that had denied for decades the need to implement ANY kind of policy to mitigate climate change because it also denied the reality of climate change. But did the deeds match Tillerson’s heartwarming words ? Kert Davies, a researcher at Greenpeace says it’s quite the opposite, and claims that the executives of Exxon “deliberately changed their stripes on climate, but it was all P.R.”. So what was the point of supporting this carbon tax ? Actually, Tillerson’s goal was to kill in the bud the other project that was gaining momentum and bipartisan support in Congress, a cap and trade plan to would have set a price on carbon. The definitive proof that Tillerson’s support for a carbon tax was merely a tactical move ? Exxon lobbied hard against the cap and trade plan and managed to kill it before it could even be discussed in the Senate. However, no lobbying energy whatsoever was invested into the birth of the carbon tax Tillerson said he supported. And in the end, neither one was created. Meanwhile, Tillerson kept on making very meaningful decisions against the transition towards a cleaner economy, at the head of Exxon, but also at the American Petroleum Institute(API). This lobby works on behalf of the gas and oil sector in America. And Tillerson has been a key player of this organization, once chairman and always part of the executive board. What exactly does the API do ? Well quite officially, its missions is to “promote safety across the industry globally and to influence public policy in support of a strong, viable U.S. oil and natural gas industry”. Which means guaranteeing that fossil fuels will continue to be burned in the United States and that their pockets will continue to fill up. In 2009, the API had 8 full time lobbyists working to influence policy. Worse that that, the API organized completely artificial “grassroots” movements to fight against a bill designed to mitigate climate change in 2009. The lobby organized town hall meetings and had its member companies make their employees attend, while ordinary citizens were discouraged from entering, which made it seem like their was a lot of citizen opposition to the bill. All in all, it was just the same kind of scam Tillerson has been contributing to for the past decades.

So this is the man that is going to represent the American people at crucial diplomatic negotiations such at the implementation of the Paris agreements on climate change. Are we to believe that the billions of dollars of oil reserves Exxon has already secured won’t influence his decision making when it comes to deciding whether the deal becomes reality or not ? This man will play a key part in deciding whether the Keystone XL pipeline between Canada and the US gets built, whether the Arctic areas, claimed by several countries and therefore subjected to intense diplomatic talks, get drilled. We knew that Donald Trump viewed the presidency as one big joke. It has become a really sick joke. And we’re not laughing at all because we know that our future on this planet is at stake.