Rex Tillerson: Pro-Energy Foe of Climate Hype

The measure of Trump’s picks for his cabinet, including Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, is the reaction of the left. Oh, sure, a main objection is to his business dealings with Russia, as if energy producing companies should have nothing to do with energy producing countries. But many on the left oppose him as a fossil fuel advocate who thinks climate change is an overhyped scam designed to deny us growth and job opportunities through the use of our abundant fossil fuel reserves.

As Andrew Freedman comments on Yahoo News:

If it weren't real, it might read like a dark climate change comedy. …

Environmental groups were quick to criticize Tillerson. After all, the State Department is tasked with leading America's diplomacy on climate change. 

“This is unfathomable. We can’t let Trump put the world’s largest oil company in charge of our international climate policy," said Mary Boeve, the executive director of 

"ExxonMobil is still a leading funder of climate denial and is pursuing a business plan that will destroy our future. Tillerson deserves a federal investigation, not federal office," she said. 

Speaking to reporters after the annual meeting of Exxon stockholders in May, 2008, Tillerson shoved political correctness aside and insisted the science on climate change is not settled and “to not have a debate on it is irresponsible” and that to “suggest we know everything about these issues is irresponsible.” As the Financial Post reported:

Avoiding the political correctness that many oil executives are now showing on global warming, Mr. Tillerson called for a continuation of the debate, rather than acceptance that it is occurring, with the potential consequence that governments will implement policies that put world economies at risk.

“My view is that this is so extraordinarily important to people the world over, that to not have a debate on it is irresponsible,” he said. “To suggest that we know everything we need to know about these issues is irresponsible….

Looking out 25 to 30 years, “everyone agrees that notwithstanding the growth in all other options for supplying energy, renewables, nuclear, biomass alternatives, you are still going to require substantial fossil fuels to meet energy needs, and two-thirds is going to come from oil and natural gas,” he said.

Climate-change skeptic Tillerson spoke of Exxon spending $8 billion of its profits on the Kearl oil sands project in Alberta, Canada. This project alone is aimed at recovering between 4.5 and 6.5 billion barrels of oil. Finding such oil takes money and expensive technology. That money comes from profits.

Kearl is part of the Athabasca oil sands located in the northeastern corner of Alberta, near the city of Fort McMurray. The Alberta government's Energy and Utilities Board estimated in 2007 that about 173 billion barrels of crude were economically recoverable based on current technology and 2006 prices. But oil prices keep rising and technology keeps advancing. These oil sand deposits cover about 54,000 square mile and contain about 1.7 trillion barrels. Tillerson knows we will always need fossil fuels, as much as we can get, to promote the economic growth America needs. Trump knows it too.

It is the Albert oil sands that produce the oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline that President Donald Trump is expected to approve. Environmentalists opposed Keystone XL because it encouraged oil sands extraction of crude, releasing so-called greenhouse gases in the process. Never mind that the oil would be extracted anyway, only to be shipped to an energy-hungry China via a pipeline to Canada’s west coast.

Yes, Exxon-Mobil was the only oil company that was a member of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And, yes, Tillerson supported a carbon tax. But Exxon-Mobil was on the IPCC only to participate in the debate on what Tillerson calls unsettled science, not to blindly endorse the IPCC

Tillerson supported a carbon tax as the lesser of many evils being proposed, like a full-blown cap-and-trade regime. It imposed what some, including Tillerson, might consider an unjustified cost, but it would be a predictable cost that could be dealt with. Speaking at the 37th Oil & Money Conference in England in October, Tillerson opined:

We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions.

One can be sure that a tax-cutting President Trump will rid Tillerson of such a notion. His pro-growth, pro-energy development views will serve us well in an energy hungry world and an America that needs as much energy as it can find to grow. Trump sees that as a key to making America great again. Tillerson notes the need for more fossil fuels.

Speaking to the United State Energy Association in May, where he received its 2016 United States Energy Award, Tillerson said:

ExxonMobil’s most recent Outlook for Energy projects that by 2040, the world’s energy demand will increase by 25 percent -- even after taking into account expected ongoing energy-efficiency gains.

To give you some perspective: a 25 percent increase is like adding to the current energy demand another North America and Latin America combined…

Advances in hydraulic fracturing have significantly increased volumes of cleaner-burning domestic natural gas, helping bring down U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to levels not seen since the 1990s. In fact, thanks to the shale revolution, the U.S. is now leading the world in reducing emissions -- a fact rarely conveyed in the public discourse of our policy decisions.

Environmentalists oppose fracking, just as they oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and the development of the Alberta oil sands and our vast domestic shale formations. Yet fracking, which Tillerson supports, has not only led to greater oil and natural gas abundance, but to drastic drops in emissions of the very gases greenies say they are concerned about. Tillerson knows that a free market and technology are the best ways to protect both the environment and economic growth. Russia and OPEC also oppose U.S. domestic fracking, since it puts downward pressure on energy prices they need to fuel their not always friendly agendas.

Energy and the Russians are two problems we will have to deal with. Tillerson has shown he is a master of both.

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.               

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