Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 11 News List

Rockefeller family accuses ExxonMobil of ignoring alternative energy options

EARTH?? FUTUREThe family?? call for an independent chairman has won support from several institutional investors. They also want a renewable energy policy


Descendants of legendary oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller have accused oil giant ExxonMobil of adopting a myopic approach toward alternative sources of energy and of refusing to engage in any meaningful discussion about the future of the planet.

At a feisty press conference in the penthouse suite of a luxury Manhattan hotel, members of the billionaire Rockefeller family complained that the world?? biggest oil company has repeatedly declined to listen to concerns about the direction of the business, which has its roots in their ancestor?? 19th century Standard Oil empire.

??here are an awful lot of people who are getting increasingly annoyed with Exxon,??said economist Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, a great-granddaughter of the company?? founder.


??heir [Exxon??] attitude is ??hese pesky shareholders, they act as if they own the company,???she said.

In an unusually public step for the usually reticent philanthropic dynasty, the Rockefellers have set out four shareholder resolutions calling for an independent chairman; a taskforce to study global warming; a reduction in Exxon?? greenhouse gas emissions; and a renewable energy policy. They cite support from 66 of John D Rockefeller?? 78 direct descendants aged 21 or over.

A significant number of institutional investors support their call for Exxon?? chief executive Rex Tillerson to hand the role of chairman to an outsider ??a similar motion for such a change won 40 percent of investors??votes at last year?? annual meeting.

Rockefeller Goodwin said her family??almost defines the long-term investor??as the oldest continuous shareholder in Exxon. She spoke of ??erious disjunctures??between Exxon?? short-term actions and ??he long-term health both of this company and of the world?? economy.??br />


Her cousin Peter O??eill said: ??f the next 20 years of the energy business were going to be just about oil and gas, we wouldn?? be holding this press conference.??br />

While other oil companies such as BP, Shell and Chevron have sought to paint themselves as green, ExxonMobil has adopted a hardline position.

The Texas-based firm has US$25 billion of capital investment planned in exploration and research of carbon-based fuels. Its main environmental commitment is a relatively modest US$100 million to fund a Stanford University center researching technical solutions to global warming.

??e think a few of those billions should go towards looking to the future and to the kind of energy this world might need,??Rockefeller Goodwin said.

She said that family members had been denied access to Exxon?? non-executive board members and that letters to independent directors had yielded stock responses drafted by company executives. Exxon?? top management, she said, consisted of veteran employees steeped in the firm?? culture.


??xxon has a very strong corporate culture ??strong in good ways and not so good ways,??Rockefeller Goodwin said. ??t includes an inability to listen to outsiders and an assumption that they know all the answers.??br />

Until recently, Exxon gave large donations to scientific institutes that disputed climate change. The company is reluctant to pump funds into environmental power forms such as wind and solar energy, arguing that such projects will not be viable until a step change in technology happens.

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