ExxonMobil fights off call to invest in oil alternatives

Rockefeller-led shareholders urge world's biggest oil company to develop fossil fuel alternatives

Be efficient. Economise. Do your part. That was the advice yesterday from Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of the world's largest oil company, to consumers who are buckling under the strain of high fuel prices.

The boss of ExxonMobil said sky-high oil prices would only start to come down when demand eased but he warned that the world would be reliant on fossil fuels for generations to come, "whether people like it or not". And Exxon itself would remain a petrochemical company, he insisted, after beating back dissident investors' proposals which demanded that Exxon plough money into alternative energy, including wind and solar power.

Mr Tillerson's victory came despite an intense public campaign by the descendants of John D Rockefeller, the legendary oil magnate whose 19th-century monopoly, Standard Oil, ultimately spawned ExxonMobil. The Rockefeller family took their battle to the floor of ExxonMobil's annual shareholder meeting in Dallas yesterday, saying that the company faced becoming obsolete if it did not face up to the realities of climate change. Michael Crosby, a dissident shareholder supporting the Rockefellers, predicted that "ExxonMobilsaurus Rex will disappear" if it does not change course.

But in the end, the family's proposal that Exxon set explicit goals for carbon emissions from its operations and from the burning of its products – which, if tough enough, would force it to develop alternative energy technologies – won only 31 per cent of the shareholder vote. A proposal to force Mr Tillerson to split his two roles won 40 per cent, no more than in previous years.

Exxon's case is that throwing money at alternative energy is a foolish way to deal with the immediate threat of climate change. Instead, it is focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its own operations, and from developing new oil-based products that reduce the environmental impact of consumers' energy use. The company highlighted its Mobil 1 synthetic motor oil that improves vehicle fuel economy, lighter weight plastics, and next-generation tyre-liners. If all the vehicles in the US incorporated these products, Mr Tillerson said, it would be "like taking 8 million cars off US roads".

Exxon says that world energy needs are going to increase by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2030, and oil and gas were simply the only fuels able to satisfy a majority of that new demand.

Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, great-granddaughter of the Standard Oil founder, questioned Exxon's assumptions, calling them "flawed" and contradict-ory. There is a growing momentum behind the development of alternatives to fossil fuels, she said, but if consumers do not switch, then climate change will cripple economic development in emerging markets and dem-and for energy will not be nearly as strong.

Many shareholders leapt to the defence of the company, however. Steve Milloy, representing the conservative Free Enterprise Action Fund, said: "As for those shareholders who don't care for the oil and gas business, get out. There are a host of alternative energy companies whose subsidies you can invest in. So why don't you?"

The oil industry has come under fire for record profits while consumers suffer record high petrol prices and increasing utility bills. As oil prices soared, Exxon made a record profit of $40.6bn (£20.5bn) in 2007, the equivalent of £1m every 25 minutes. Mr Tillerson himself was paid $16.7m last year, up from $13.0m in 2006.

"Mr Tillerson would have to put $96,000 of gas in his car each week to understand the devastating effect that high prices are having on workers around the country," Julie Goodridge, of NorthStar Asset Management, told the meeting.

After the votes, Mr Tillerson said Exxon would continue to plough money into oil and gas exploration projects which, in the medium term, could boost production and ease oil prices. In the short term, he said, consumers should do their part to economise. "People say their little part isn't going to make a different, but multiply that by 50 million and it can begin to."

The 400-plus shareholders in Dallas were greeted by protesters chanting "Exxon – enough", and demanding that the company acts to cut pollution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor