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Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas: Big Oil joins the debate (*more Hofmeister BS)

Dan Piller,  – KRTBN
Published: Feb 14, 2007

HOUSTON — Major oil company executives made it clear Tuesday that they no longer intend to stand by idly while others set tax and environmental policies for their industry.

“It is important to share our understanding of our industry with the public and policymakers,” Exxon Mobil Corp. Chairman Rex Tillerson said at the industry’s most prestigious annual event, the Cambridge Energy Research Associates annual conference. More than 2,000 people from 44 countries are attending the conference.

Tillerson said that “the risk to society from climate change could be significant” and that Exxon Mobil intends to participate in public discussions about carbon emissions.

That’s a policy shift for Exxon Mobil, who under previous Chairman Lee Raymond tended to question whether global warming was an issue at all or ignored it altogether. Exxon Mobil has openly discussed global warming more frankly in the 14 months since Tillerson succeeded Raymond at the top of the multinational energy giant.

Another big international oil company, Shell Oil, has gone further.

Shell President John Hofmeister said he and his executives were jolted in the fall of 2005 after what he called heroic efforts by energy companies to restore oil and natural gas supplies from the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He said the energy industry found itself besieged by politicians, the media and the public over the high prices that resulted from temporary shortages.

Major oil company executives were summoned to appear before congressional committees, and the industry had to fight back attempts to impose a new excess profits tax.

“What happened, of course, was that no matter how hard we work to supply energy to maintain our standard of living, that people were upset about $3 gasoline and record oil company profits,” Hofmeister said.

“Shell decided that we had better move from a defensive posture to becoming more active in the public discussion of energy,” he said. “It doesn’t work for our industry to be at war with the public and policymakers.”

Commenting on carbon emissions and global climate change, Hofmeister said: “The public says this is an issue, whether we like it or not.”

Still, Exxon Mobil’s Til- lerson resisted unilateral U.S. initiatives to address glo- bal warming, saying it’s more important to involve developing countries where carbon-dioxide emissions are growing.

“It is foolish for individual countries to engage in their own actions because it won’t do much more than make them feel good,” Tillerson said. “It is particularly important for the emerging economies of the Pacific Rim, where the biggest increases in carbon emissions will occur, to take part in the discussions.”

He added that additional taxes on the energy industry would impede investment in expanded production.

Tillerson said Exxon Mobil’s huge project that has just begun production off Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific Coast is tapping reserves discovered in the 1970s and only developed in the past decade.

Hofmeister and his executives toured 25 U.S. cities last year conducting meetings with local residents and public officials. The results were sobering, he said.

“I was shocked at how many people actually believe in the peak oil theory,” said Hofmeister, of a point of view held by some that the world is at the tipping point of supply and that extreme worldwide crude oil shortages are looming.

The energy industry and Cambridge Energy Chairman Daniel Yergin, whose book The Prize is considered the definitive history of the world oil industry, have hotly disputed the theory.

Hofmeister said he and other industry executives recently met with new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and, in Hofmeister’s words, “invited ourselves to be part of the dialogue” over energy issues.

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