WKOG Op-ed | The Prosecution of ExxonMobil – A Path to Nowhere

Wrong Kind of Green

November 13, 2015

by Forrest Palmer



Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., President and CEO of United Negro College Fund (UNCF), President William J. Clinton, Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Walter E. Massey, Ph.D., President of Morehouse College. 

Recently a big to do has been made about ExxonMobil withholding information on climate change that was generated by the company’s own scientists. It has been a ‘told you so’ moment for the liberals which will mean little other than giving them a smug feeling for a short period of time.

To understand why and how this occurred though and also why it will have no impact on the people who spearheaded these corporate actions, you must look at the type of individuals who run these institutions. In the book Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, the author Steve Coll details a story of what happened when Lee Raymond, the former CEO of ExxonMobil was approached by a colleague in the oil and gas industry:


“ExxonMobil’s interests were global, not national. Once, at an industry meeting in Washington, an executive present asked Raymond whether Exxon might build more refineries inside the United States, to help protect the country against potential gasoline shortages.


“Why would I want to do that?” Raymond asked, as the executive recalled it.


“Because the United States needs it . . . for security,” the executive replied.


“I’m not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.,” Raymond said.


ExxonMobil executives managed the interests of the corporation’s shareholders, employees, and worldwide affiliates that paid taxes in scores of countries. The corporation operated and licensed more gas stations overseas than it did in the United States. It was growing overseas faster than at home. Even so, it seemed stunning that a man in Raymond’s position at the helm of an iconic, century-old American oil company, a man who was a political conservative friendly with many ardently patriotic officeholders, could “be so bold, so brazen.” Raymond saw no contradiction; he did indeed regard himself as a very patriotic American and a political conservative, but he also was fully prepared to state publicly that he had fiduciary responsibilities. Raymond found it frustrating that so many people—particularly politicians in Washington—could not grasp or would not take the time to think through ExxonMobil’s multinational dimensions, and what the corporation’s global sprawl implied about its relationship with the United States government of the day.”

As people are wont to do in this world, they rarely look at things in an honest fashion since they want to believe in a narrative that fits their belief system. If you ask most Amerikkkans if Lee Raymond was capable of saying something like this, as he is an admittedly patriotic person and his life is an example of the “Amerikkkan Dream”, they wouldn’t believe it and even after finding out the truth would somehow find a plausible rationale in their mind for it or not acknowledge it all in a convenient form of memory loss.

Exxonmobil Teachers Academy Supporting Image

Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy: 150 highly-qualified third through fifth-grade teachers from around the country are selected to attend the intensive one week, all-expense-paid professional development program each summer.  April 2014: “Since its inception, more than 4,100 teachers have been trained at the Academy, impacting the lives of more than 290,000 students nationwide.”

This exchange is telling though because what it shows is that ultimately patriotism and the ones who promote it in the media to indoctrinate people into this mindset, such as Raymond, are utter shams. Hence, if ExxonMobil or any corporation had all of its interests in the United States, it would have no problem claiming itself as 100% patriotic. Therefore, building refineries in this country would not be an issue at all. However, the day even .00001% of a company’s business interests reside outside of the Amerikkkan borders, then these business interests at that juncture cannot be on equal footing with patriotism, with the former superseding the latter . (The fact that Raymond says “I’m not a company” and doesn’t even use the more prevalent term “We are not a company”, when he is still just a CEO of a public corporation and not even a private one that he personally owns, is a whole other level of psychosis in all honesty)

In relation to this statement though, it illustrates completely why it has been revealed recently that ExxonMobil suppressed the information of its own scientists regarding climate change. The corporations entire existence is to look after its best interests. And acknowledgement that climate change is a reality and that your product is contributing to it or putting patriotism before profit aren’t things conducive to serving your ONLY objective, which is the financial success of the company.


Update: April 23, 2015: ExxonMobil Donates a Record $13.4 Million to the United Way of Greater Houston

That being said, although many people on the liberal side of the aisle are hopeful that there will be some criminal prosecution of the responsible people (who are probably old, infirmed or dead by now), it will NEVER happen. (To what end, I am not exactly sure since there can be no restitution regarding the environment). In terms of the act itself from a legal standpoint, I believe the primary reason why Lee Raymond or Rex Tillerson (current CEO of ExxonMobil) or any of the executives of the past thirty or forty years will not pay any penalty whatsoever for their transgressions is because of the difficulty of proving that what they did was actually harmful since the presence of climate change and even the effect of human actions on the climate are up for debate in the court of public opinion by most people. Although some people are comparing it to the recent fight against the tobacco industry, this is unlike tobacco in the fact that there is visual evidence in seeing people have health effects from smoking , such as heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, etc. But with carbon emissions, the byproduct is tangible in climate change, but to look at the everyday atmosphere in front of your face stay relatively the same isn’t helpful to getting people to understand emissions inherent harm as it doesn’t affect any of the five senses of which we judge the impact of something being good or bad in this world.

Yet outside of the legal framework (which I will admit is debatable unlike science and mathematics, no matter how some people want to make it so) as to whether or not ExxonMobil will be judged to have done anything malfeasant, even from a practical standpoint nothing will come of this. The reason is that to believe that the entire government system which is comprised of the same individuals that are part of the overall capitalist power structure will pursue charges against the most lucrative corporation in the world is foolhardy at best. Consider the following reasons as to why the various government law departments will do nothing about any crime, perceived or otherwise, by ExxonMobil:

1)   Personal and professional relationships – Many of the state and federal law employees live in the same areas, frequent the same establishments, are married to the same people, have children that go to the same schools and are ultimately part of the same network as the people they are allegedly trying to prosecute regarding this case. To say this plays no part in the actions of those who are investigating this flies in the face of reality. I seriously doubt that an assistant Attorney General today will be trying to prosecute his own father who was one of the culprits of this cover up back in the 1980s.

2)   Revolving door of corporate and government jobs – As with any industry in Amerikkka, there are many times that various individuals go back and forth between private and public jobs in countless capacities. This means that we could potentially see a lawyer working today in the state or federal government who at one time worked for ExxonMobil. Who are going to police the police when these people go back and forth between their current positions and other positions in the same system that committed this atrocity and many others?

3)   Establishment mentality – The state and federal organizations that will be investigating this are comprised of primarily white, conservative men who don’t believe in climate change or at most think that it is not as bad as the ‘worry warts’ pretend it is or will be (just a simple change in the thermostat and voila! No problem). Hence, as they believe in Amerikkkan ideals of what is right and wrong, the focus will always be on prosecuting deeds seen as detrimental to the individual (murder, theft, rape) and never pursuit of those industries and acts that provide us the Western comforts of which we feel entitled (mountaintop removal for coal, oil spills, rail accidents, etc.)

Plus, and this is most important, any of these people back in the 1980s who are guilty of the crimes against humanity, ultimately were looking out for the fiduciary strength of ExxonMobil. The belief that somehow they withheld information from stockholders which impacted their holdings is worthy of a roll of the eyes. The same stockholders, who promote the media lie that climate change is a hoax and support think tanks and political groups that sponsor these untruths, are now being portrayed as the “victims” of the dastardly executives and corporate miscreants who lied to them about the deleterious effects of the product that enriched them? It is almost impossible to get more comical than that.

Ultimately, this act was in the company’s best interests, which is what executives are supposed to do when they sign on the dotted line and accept their positions in the corporate hierarchy. No matter how people on the liberal side like a Naomi Klein or Bill McKibben or the members of these organizations, such as and Greenpeace, want to believe it or construe it, nothing will come of this because if ExxonMobil would have admitted that climate change is a reality, then theoretically it would have destroyed their business or affected it to some extent. (This is ONLY in theory. In reality, if ExxonMobil’s scientific data about the legitimacy of climate change would have been released to the public it would have done NOTHING since you can’t get most people to accept climate change or at least its severity TODAY even with the evidence of its reality exponentially increasing since that time)

And finally, this will not be seen as important at all by U.S. citizens since climate change hasn’t impacted our lives in Amerikkka. At this juncture, climate change has been a minor inconvenience. For example, taking a daily blood thinner pill is an inconvenience. Having a massive stroke will impact your life. One has no effect upon your daily actions, while the other drastically changes your relationship with the world. As most Amerikkkans judge economic health simply upon their ability to get up in the morning, exist in a relatively Westernized resource intensive domestic situation, toil at a job all day, go home and enjoy the diminishing returns on said labor for a scant few hours and repeat it all over again, the minor inconveniences of economic inflation for goods and services presently haven’t impacted our collective lives, which is unlike the radical adjustments coming forth of daily water scarcity which is approaching relatively soon. Until that day, it will be “business as usual”.

Mallon Award Rex W.Tillerson CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation-Dallas World Affairs Council

November 10, 2014: World Affairs Council Honors Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson (left) with the 2014 Mallon Award. (Right) Dr. Robert M. Gates, the former secretary of defense.

So, nothing will come from this minor blip on the screen as people live myopic lives, little concerned about tomorrow as long as things stay relatively calm today. The Lee Raymonds and Rex Tillersons of the world have nothing to worry about and unlike low level criminals who are always fearful of policemen busting through their doors, one thing you will never see: Raymond, Tillerson and the like doing the “perp walk” on the evening news. So, don’t hold your breath waiting to see any of these people in orange jumpsuits. Ain’t happenin’, cap’n.

And in the off chance that some ultimately meaningless financial penalty is imposed against ExxonMobil, it will have no benefit on a world that has been wrecked by its actions.

And besides, when the inconveniences turn into impacts, most of these men will be a distant memory in the dustbin of history.

No matter what happens though, the description of their actions will be that” they did what they were supposed to do”. And sadly enough many people who will be the future victims of their past and present actions, will still agree with these thoughts – until their dying day.


[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at]

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