Oil Giant Exxon Mobil Calls for More Study of Renewable Energy

Exxon Mobil, one of the largest oil companies in the world, is calling for greater appraisal of wind, solar and nuclear energy.

IRVING, Texas, US, 2001-04-18 <SolarAccess.com> One of the largest oil companies in the world is calling for greater appraisal of wind, solar and nuclear energy. Exxon Mobil Corporation is printing advertisements in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post to clarify its corporate views on the issue of global climate change. The ads call for moving beyond the Kyoto Protocol to an effective international climate policy, stating that the risk of long-term climate change needs to be addressed in a sound way. “We want to make sure that the public, our customers, the governments we work with, and environmental organizations clearly understand, without third-party interpretation, where we stand on this issue,” says vice president Frank Sprow. The Texas firm has proposed voluntary actions such as cost-effective investment in co-generation and energy efficiency, as well as carbon storage through protection of forests and emphasis on soil management. It wants to focus international efforts on a framework to support technology transfer and information sharing, and conduct scientific research to improve the ability to predict possible consequences of future climate change. The proposals also include a call for realistic appraisal and addressing of the barriers to renewable energy and nuclear energy, and more research on promising long-term technological options that could significantly reduce future emissions, such as fuel cells powered by hydrogen. “These proposals are designed to avoid regulatory straitjackets and invite participation by all nations,” explains Sprow. “Because they are flexible, policies can change as experience and knowledge are gained. It is essential to move from Kyoto to practical and politically attainable approaches that recognize the need for affordable energy in our daily lives.” ExxonMobil’s concerns about climate change and the decision of U.S. President George Bush to not ratify the Kyoto Protocol are shared by numerous companies, he adds. The ads show that ExxonMobil is going on the defensive over the threat of boycotts and shareholder resolutions, claims Campaign ExxonMobil, a coalition of religious and environmental groups that wants the oil company to change its position on the issue. “The company’s response appears to be the result of calls by Green parties worldwide for a boycott of the company, as well as efforts by its own shareholders to make the company take responsibility for its role in global warming,” says Peter Altman. “Most of the company’s revenue comes from overseas where many boycott supporters are potent political forces.” The group claims that $10.2 billion came from overseas sales last year, while only $6.8 billion was generated in the United States. On Monday, participants at the Global Greens 2000 conference formally resolved to boycott ExxonMobil and other U.S. corporations for their resistance to the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol was signed by 160 countries in 1997, but environmentalists claim that U.S. companies were instrumental in convincing President Bush to abandon the protocol. “Investors ought to be concerned that ExxonMobil has positioned itself as the most important global environmental target on what many people see as the most important global environmental issue,” says Altman. “Even a small change in buying habits could translate into tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues.” Campaign ExxonMobil is building support for two shareholder resolutions which would oblige the company to commit to renewable energy. The proposed text calls on shareholders to adopt a policy that promotes renewable energy sources and to develop strategic plans to bring renewable energy into ExxonMobil’s energy mix. “Shareholders shall be kept advised regularly as to the ways our Company is moving from its self-stated “insignificant percentage of the company’s business” in fossil fuels to the promotion and marketing of renewables,” it reads. “Support for this resolution will indicate shareholder desire to de-emphasize the burning of fossil fuels and the development of more non-polluting, environmentally-friendly approaches to energy sources.” Two competitors, Royal Dutch/Shell Group and BP, have significantly increased their development of renewable energy, including a five-year program from Shell to invest $500 million in renewables. Exxon/Mobil opposed the resolution in 2000, arguing that “enewable energy sources currently compose only an extremely insignificant percentage of the company’s business.”

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