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Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon, is scheduled to interview with President-elect Donald Trump later this week, as Trump widens the net for prospective candidates for the position of Secretary of State.
Tillerson, who will be retiring next March from his top job at the world’s largest public oil company, took the helm of Exxon in 2006. Since then, he has steered the company through the recent turbulence brought about by the oil price crash. He’s nearing the age of 65, and according to company rules, is when he needs to retire.
The candidacy of Tillerson has caused Democrats to breathlessly await the moment when they will be able to grill Tillerson on allegations that Exxon has been holding back information about the effects of human activity – and the energy industry in particular – on climate. It is seen by some as an opportunity to get Tillerson to admit under oath its wrongdoings as far as its role in climate change narrative.
Exxon came under media fire in 2015, after reports revealed that the company knew about the effects of fossil fuel emissions on climate as early as the 1970s. In September 2015, the New York Attorney General’s office launched an official investigation into Exxon’s climate change-related actions, alleging that the company misled its investors and the public, as well as regulators, about its awareness of the effects of its business on the environment.
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The company has since embraced the Paris agreement on climate change and was forced at this year’s annual shareholders’ meeting to accept a resolution that could see a climate expert join the company’s board—a move that could force the company to face the climate change-related problems that many of its peers have already acknowledged.
According to some observers, Tillerson is the worst of all the candidates for the top job precisely because of his baggage. Selecting him for Secretary of State would likely further consolidate environmentalists’ ranks in the fight against climate change and their opposition to Donald Trump.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.