Infographic: 4 Things You Need to Know About Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson
by Tina Solin
January 11, 2017
The Exxon CEO testified today in front of the Senate that the science of climate change “is not conclusive.” Here are some other things he’s wrong about.
Exxon CEO and Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the stand today to answer questions from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the results were less than informative. Tillerson dodged questions on his relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Exxon’s history of funding climate denial, and how we would address human rights abuses as Secretary of State.
So instead of waiting for Rex to answer a direct question, we did some research to find out what he really stands for.
1. He Puts Corporate Profits Ahead of U.S. Interests
The Secretary of State is the country’s top diplomat, in charge of representing U.S. interests around the globe. Not only does Tillerson have no diplomatic or government experience, he’s repeatedly violated U.S. policies to boost Exxon’s bottom line.
For example, he went against State Department policy to cut a deal with the Kurdish government to drill for oil, undermining U.S. and Iraqi leadership in the region. His explanation? “I had to do what was best for my shareholders.”
And that rash decision follows a long pattern of Exxon doing what it wanted, where it wanted, with whom it wanted — as long as it meant drilling and profits. Tillerson’s predecessor as CEO, Lee Raymond, went so far as to say that Exxon is “not a U.S. company [Exxon is headquartered in Irving, Texas] and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good the United States.”
To top it off, a 2016 Oxfam report found that Exxon had $51 billion in offshore cash and subsidiary located in corporate tax havens to avoid paying taxes to the U.S. government Tillerson now wants to help run.
2. He Partnered With Putin to Drill for Oil in the Arctic
Tillerson as Secretary of State would virtually guarantee an oil rush in the Russian Arctic — oil that’s only accessible due to climate change in the first place.
In 2011, Tillerson’s Exxon signed a $500 billion agreement with Russian state-run oil company Rosneft. In 2014, State Department sanctions blocked them from drilling and cost Exxon $1 billion. As Secretary of State, Tillerson would have a say in lifting these sanctions, enriching himself and his former employer without any clear benefit to the American people.
On top of that, drilling in the Arctic is an extremely risky proposition due to harsh conditions and immense difficulties of cleaning up an oil spill, and would push the planet further toward the brink of climate chaos.
3. His Company Is Behind a Massive Climate Denial Scheme
In the 1970s and 1980s, Exxon scientists conducted cutting-edge climate research. But rather than acting responsibly with this knowledge, the company’s leaders misinformed the public and spent more than $30 million to give birth to climate denial as we know it today.
In 2015 alone, Tillerson’s Exxon spent $27 million on efforts to obstruct climate change policies and gave nearly $2 million to groups that spread misinformation about climate science and block climate action.
All the while, Exxon profited off of fueling climate chaos. From the time Exxon began investigating the impacts of burning fossil fuels on the Earth’s climate in 1978 to when reports of its knowledge of climate change broke in 2015, the company’s annual profits rose from $2.4 billion to $16.2 billion.
4. Don’t Believe the Hype — He’s No Climate “Moderate”
In the wake of his nomination, some in the media argued that Tillerson would be the most moderate on climate of Trump’s cabinet picks — almost all of whom outright deny climate science.
During his hearing today, Rex laid those reports to rest when he said the science of climate change is “not conclusive.”
Tillerson testifies that the science behind climate change "is not conclusive" re it being in any way man made
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 11, 2017
His company’s business model is not consistent with the Paris climate goals, it has lobbied against strong climate policies, and has continued to direct its political contributions to politicians who are science deniers and who oppose climate action.
Tillerson himself has continued to question basic science, the impacts of climate change on communities around the world, and the merit of climate action.