March 8 News: ExxonMobil CEO Praises Carbon Tax, Disses Renewables, Calls Enviros ‘Obtuse’ For Anti-Keystone Effort

Rex Tillerson, chair and CEO of Exxon Mobil. (AP Photo)

Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s CEO, recently spoke with Charlie Rose. The two covered a number of topics, from Tillerson’s less than generous opinion of the Keystone XL protests, to a carbon tax versus cap-and-trade, to his pessimistic view of renewable energy’s chances of displacing fossil fuels anytime soon. [Businessweek]

Why have environmental groups made Keystone such a priority?

There’s a segment of the environmental groups that’s very concerned about the burning of fossil fuels. In a sort of obtuse way, they took a view that if they could prevent the transport of crude oil from Canada to the U.S., then that would throw an obstacle in the way of future developments. I think they probably misjudged Canada’s resolve.

Where do you stand on a carbon tax?

At some point policymakers will get around to dealing with additional policies around climate in ways to incentivize certain behaviors. There are different models, one of which is cap-and-trade, which Europe has been trying now with not a lot of success. If you’re going to undertake a policy with those characteristics, a carbon tax is much more straightforward. It’s much simpler to administer, and it doesn’t leave itself open to as much gaming.

How much longer do you think we’ll be burning fossil fuels?

When coal came into the picture, it took about 50 or 60 years to displace timber. Then crude oil was found, and it took 60, 70 years, and then natural gas. So it takes 100 years or more for some new breakthrough in energy to become the dominant source. Most people have difficulty coming to grips with the sheer enormity of energy consumption. If we look at our energy outlook, at things like renewable wind, solar, biofuels, we have those sources over the next 30 years growing 700 to 800 percent. But in the year 2040, they’ll supply just 1 percent.

The failure to accurately predict Snowquester’s effects in the I-95 corridor offers lessons in communicating risk and uncertainty, which can be applied to both weather and climate forecasting. [Climate Central]

Legislation requiring that schools teach “both the strengths and weaknesses of” climate change science has died in the Kansas state legislature. [Slate]

As the nor’easter that dumped 2 feet of snow on areas of the inland Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday moves slowly out to sea, the National Weather Service is predicting moderate to major coastal flooding along the New England coast. [Climate Central]

As the coal industry declines, many of its retirees are left with crippling ailments after years of working in the mines, and many of the union benefits they’ve built up over decades are now at risk of vanishing. [WaPo]

According to an update to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought expanded in Florida and West Texas, where several weeks of low rainfall have allowed already dry conditions to intensify. [Climate Central]

Energy poverty has left more than 1 billion people in developing countries without access to adequate healthcare. Staff are often forced to treat emergencies in the dark, and often go without vaccine storage or sterilization. [The Guardian]

National carbon cap-and-trade measures will play a bigger role in climate-change efforts as the importance of offset mechanisms started by the United Nations wanes, the head of an emissions trading lobby said. [Bloomberg]


40 Responses to March 8 News: ExxonMobil CEO Praises Carbon Tax, Disses Renewables, Calls Enviros ‘Obtuse’ For Anti-Keystone Effort

  1. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Congratulations climate hawks. When Rex Tillerson brands you “obtuse” you can be acutely assured of how right you are.

  2. Joan Savage says:

    Climate Central focused on how to report uncertainty, yet the apology from the Capital Weather Gang included admission that the European weather forecasting model had gotten the forecast right.

    Why blend a bunch of poor models and figure out their predictive uncertainty, when a better model can get the job done?

  3. bigdaddy says:

    Can someone comment on the merits of Tillersons’s claim? “If we look at our energy outlook, at things like renewable wind, solar, biofuels, we have those sources over the next 30 years growing 700 to 800 percent. But in the year 2040, they’ll supply just 1 percent.

  4. Nancy says:

    Tillerson says we are 25 years away from using algae to fuel our vehicles. Why should anyone listen to an oilman when he talks about renewable energy? He wants to sell oil, not algae!

    I would like to learn more about algae. I read that using today’s technology, we could fuel about half of our vehicles with algae. Is the government funding algae technology? There are many empty manufacturing plants around the country – by transforming them into algae production plants, it would provide ‘green’ jobs. Algae plants have to be located near a body of water….how about Detroit or Cleveland…they could use a few jobs!

  5. David Smith says:

    T-Rex in response the first question above includes…”I think they probably misjudged Canada’s resolve”. Curious how he frames his & TransCanada’s interest in terms of the Canadian government as if the two were inter-changeable. I never thought of this in terms of the government of Canada imposing itself on US citizens and their property and their ecosystems for profit.

    I would like to think that all of the above have misjudged American environmentalist’s resolve. They may have the President in their pockets, but not the growing enviro movement.

  6. In response to Dinosaur Rex T…

    1. The enviros have delayed key efforts by the oil industry, Cananda and China to globalize North American oil supplies and increase access to dirty and dangerous tar sands. The fact that Rex is griping now is proof enough of that. Further, without the protests, it is doubtful that a carbon tax would even be under discussion.

    2. We have to be careful how the carbon tax is implemented. If it goes to legislation, you can almost guarantee Rex and his ilk will push for loopholes large enough to push 10 Keystone XL’s through.

    3. And this is where Rex gets obtuse and outdated. Wind, solar and biofuels already account for more than 1 percent of global energy supply. Renewables supplied 16.7 percent of global energy in 2011. Perhaps Rex is just saying that oil companies are pushing for renewables to only supply 1% of total energy by 2040? Such an event would be nothing short of disaster.

    Given these statements, one wonders how in tune Rex is with actual reality? In light of current OIC company policies on climate change and renewable energy, it appears they’re still living in the 1950s, quite possibly the 1890s…

  7. The Euro model also was the most accurate predictor for Sandy.

  8. China, Canada and the IOCs are imposing their will to the detriment of American interests — long and short term.

    Keystone will increase domestic oil prices, amplify climate change, increase use of dirty and dangerous tar sands, and enable Chinese resource colonialism in the US/North America.

  9. BillD says:

    While saying that we may eventually need to address climate change, is Rex really saying that it will take 100 years for fossil fuels to be replaced? I guess that he is expecting that the carbon tax will remain negligibly small and that we will still be arguing over whether humans are altering the climate over the next 50 years.

  10. j montoya says:

    I caught nearly all of this interview. Besides the various arguments he made/answers he gave, I had three general impressions: 1) he is one slick, cool, company character, 2) Exxon can and does buy far more ideas more than it creates, and 3) Exxon-Mobil is more powerful than any nation on earth.

  11. j montoya says:

    When asked whether they are an “American” company, he answered yes, but remember that covers North, South, Central, Latin, or whatever categories therein you want. He also claimed to be looking out for employees in every nation where Mother Exxon operates. When asked about helping “America”, he admitted they are in business for one reason only – profits. No Chavez this one to help those in need.

  12. SecularAnimist says:

    Robert Marston wrote: “Wind, solar and biofuels already account for more than 1 percent of global energy supply. Renewables supplied 16.7 percent of global energy in 2011 … one wonders how in tune Rex is with actual reality?”

    It’s interesting that Tillerson’s contrafactual attacks on renewable energy echo the similar attacks from purveyors of hopelessness, futility and despair who comment here regularly — as does his mockery of the Keystone XL protestors.

  13. Sasparilla says:

    Another 100 years of BAU and we will have sucked nearly every drop of crude that is accessible from the ground (the price would be stratospheric by then), hence Rex’s assumed transition.

  14. Sasparilla says:

    Let’s let Dr. Hansen design a carbon tax for him and see how in favor of a Carbon Tax ol’ Rex really is.

    It’s also easy to say you’re for a Carbon Tax when there isn’t a chance one could be implemented in the Republican controlled House (and probably not in the Senate).

  15. Mike Roddy says:

    Yeah, my jaw dropped over that 1% prediction too, Robert. Rex must think they’re going to figure out a way to supercharge oil and gas and make them cheap, putting wind and solar out of business.

    He’s not from another era. More like from another planet. I hope he moves back there.

  16. Mike Roddy says:

    Yeah, good point. As Jewell pointed out, a carbon tax is off the table for Obama. It will be interesting to see the roll call vote if Pelosi and Waxman’s bill makes it to the House floor.

  17. Superman1 says:

    Yeah, he’s probably basing his predictions on irrelevant data like Chinese and Indian coal plants in the pipeline, EIA, IEA, etc predictions for fossil fuel use way out, and similar real-world projections. He needs to drink some of Dr. Secular’s magic Python Oil to clear his mind.

  18. Donald Brown says:

    The big story of the Rose interview is, I believe, that despite the fact that ExxonMobil is now softly supporting some kind of carbon tax, Tillerson is still misleading the public on the science of climate change by highlighting, distorting, the remaining scientific uncertainty about climate sensitivity and strongly giving the false impression that because of this uncertainty nothing needs to be done immediately. ExxonMobile, historically, has been the dark angel in the climate debate for well over 20 years, a fact alone which calls for a much louder public condemnation of their role even if it has somewhat softened its position currently. I dont understand why there has been no call for a public boycott of all ExxonMobil products until they atone of their undeniable obstructionist historical role in undermining action on climate change and their current role of still distorting public understanding the magnitude of the emergency facing the world. I got the clear impression listening to the Charlie Rose interview that Tillerson still either dosen’t understand the mainstream view on climate science, particularly in regard to the urgency of action, or was willfully spinning it. Exxon and Mobil Oil before they merged were actively engaged in undermining climate science, funding the most irresponsible elements of the climate denial machine, in short, a case can be made that they have been guilty of some new kind of crime against humanity, and they are not done spinning. Where is the public outrage??
    In my view, the civil disobedience campaign that emerged over the XL pipleline, although a good step, would have been much more effective if it highlighted and drew attention to the propagators of the disinformation campaign.

  19. catman306 says:

    Roll over, Rex! Good boy, now sit!

    (If only it was that easy.)

  20. Joe Romm says:


  21. The EIA projections for world renewable energy use is 23% by 2035. And EIA is notably conservative about such trends.

    Clearly Rex is the one drinking the juice…

  22. I do find it hopeful that renewables are at about 17% total energy supply and growing. I also find it hopeful that Rex T is apparently unaware of this fact.

  23. I’d hope they push the carbon tax in any case. Rex’s lip service, as noted above, is probably just mis-direction. There’s no way the oil companies would actually support a carbon tax. Just publicly complain that the government hasn’t yet provided one.

  24. Paul Magnus says:

    Wrong questions. We should be asking him about why we need to get off FF and about the future of his kids.

  25. prokaryotes says:

    He reverses the psychology here when branding us “obtuse”. In fact only experts understand the magnitude and the general public has problems grasping it, since they have problems to identify them self as the root of the problem (everyday oil consumption per capita – our “modern lifestyle”).

    The problem is ignored by most people, they are in deep denial and avoid the topic they not understand. I just had a family meeting and we talked about what people do and i shortly mentioned that among the things i do, i still blog on the topic of climate change. Nobody was interested to ask me any questions, let alone had any opinion about it. To the irony everybody was upset about the weather forecast which brings back snow after spring temperatures of the last days here.

    To bring change you have to get a carbon tax, you require experts in the media talk about it on a daily basis and you require to debunk every single tiny bit of denier talking points, or misunderstandings of the average Joe, over and over again, rinse and repeat.

    But since we do not do this and since the denial is still big, we will have this situation for the next couple of years. And we are back to our assessment that only a climate black swarn could bring change, wake people up. Just that this means that we are much deeper into a climate state, which is going to further spiral out of human control into a civilization threatening situation.

    When Tillerson talks about the last energy transition he ignores the electric car, electric transport systems, which have been removed by oil interests at those times. And that it took so long because there was no visible climate change and almost no global awareness on environment.

  26. fj says:

    6000 times the amount of energy that we require exists in the form of solar energy every day.

  27. fj says:

    Once the high energy density restraint is eliminated stuff is designed and works better at much lower cost and the equivalent of found energy is enormous.

  28. prokaryotes says:

    Results are preliminary, but Russian scientists say they have recovered an “unclassified” form of life from water samples brought up from ancient Lake Vostok, more than 2 miles beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet.

  29. prokaryotes says:

    Special report: USA TODAY will explore how climate change is affecting Americans in a series of stories this year.

  30. Ozonator says:

    In Jindalstan aka Louisiana aka the extreme GOP’s and NRA’s dream state, Medicaid and pay for women are decreased while EssoKoch’s sinkholes increase to pay for BJ’s presidential parade.

    “A second Texas Brine Co. LLC cavern in northern Assumption Parish is closer to the edge of the Napoleonville Dome than previously thought, state regulators said Friday. The cavern is just northeast of another Texas Brine cavern, known as Oxy Geismar No. 3, … failure of Oxy Geismar No. 3, caused a giant sinkhole to form between the Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou communities … An evacuation of 350 people remains in effect more than seven months later. … Oxy Geismar No. 1, would be closer to the edge of the dome than would be allowed under new minimum safety standards that the Office of Conservation is proposing in light of the earlier Texas Brine cavern failure. … Gov. Bobby Jindal said he would meet with local officials about the sinkhole, which … has grown to 8.6 acres. … Oxy Geismar No. 1 was also the subject of a 1995 Sandia National Laboratories study that suggested the cavern might have breached the edge of the salt dome“ (“Concerns raised about 2nd salt dome cavern in Assumption”; BY DAVID J. MITCHELL, River Parishes bureau;, 3/8/13). “Baton Rouge ranks as 4th-worst paying city for women” (Written by Staff Reports;, 3/7/13).

  31. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “… EIA, IEA, etc predictions for fossil fuel use way out …”

    Wow. You seriously don’t have a clue about what you’re talking about.

  32. Superman1 says:

    Facts, please.

  33. Superman1 says:

    Robert, You’re getting the full Python Oil sales pitch from Secular. You’re looking at the renewables ‘shell’ rather than the fossil ‘pea’. The number of concern is the fossil fuel use from here on out. No projections I’ve seen from any credible source show it decreasing; that’s what will drive us over the cliff, irrespective of how much renewables are installed.

  34. Superman1 says:

    There’s a diversion going on here. Whether he said one percent or ten percent renewables is not relevant. What will drive us over the cliff is fossil fuel use numbers from here on out. And, I have seen no credible projection of their decreasing in the next few decades.

  35. Ken Barrows says:

    What’s the net energy is the question to ask.

  36. Ken Barrows says:

    One thing will decrease fossil fuels quite quickly: diminishing credit. Hasn’t happened yet, though.

  37. Mike Roddy says:

    Rex Tillerson is garbage, and will say or do anything for a $20 bill. These are the people who have taken charge of our once great country.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dennis, in regard to your earlier inquiry as to why I have a less than positive impression of Mark Lynas, there is a profile of Lynas at The Guardian Environment section that, I would say, vindicates my sentiments. In fact, after reading it, particularly his egregious attacks on organic agriculture, I now think that I cut him too much slack.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This is precisely the type who I believe must one day face trial for crimes against humanity by causing climate destabilisation catastrophe. If some legal experts drew up model legislation now, just awaiting future enactment, it might ‘concentrate the minds’ of a few climate criminals, which will work to our favour if they defect to the human race, perhaps bringing interesting documents with them.