Exxon CEO foresees national problem in gasoline

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Exxon CEO foresees national problem in gasoline production

By DAVID KOENIG, Associated Press

DALLAS (May 31, 2001 7:00 AM PDT) - The chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. says he can't imagine any company building new U.S. refineries and that clean-air rules will further strain gasoline-making capacity in the next few years.

Lee Raymond said a big hurdle in the short run is that U.S. refiners are gearing up to spend $8 billion over the next few years to meet government standards for reducing sulfur content in gasoline and diesel fuel.

The result, he said, would be refineries closing temporarily for retooling and leaving some independent gasoline marketers unable to find supplies. "It's a very complex system, and the more you load on to it, as we're finding out, the bigger the problem," Raymond said.

Raymond said companies are reluctant to build new refineries because profit margins are too small - they could invest in other things "and you wouldn't have the aggravation of everybody accusing you of always cheating" by manipulating gasoline prices.

Raymond made the comments after the meeting of Exxon Mobil shareholders, where he announced a 2-for-1 stock split and extra 2-cent dividend in July. Last year, the Irving-based company earned $17.7 billion on sales of $232.7 billion - both records for a U.S. company.

The meeting was marked by protests inside and outside the hall by activists who urged Exxon Mobil to adopt environmental and gay-rights proposals. All were voted down, but supporters raised the threat of a U.S. boycott against the world's largest publicly owned oil company.

"We will boycott your products, and we will not put a tiger in your tank," said British environmental activist Bianca Jagger, referring to a longtime Exxon advertising slogan. Last month, Jagger and other environmental activists announced a boycott against Esso, Exxon Mobil's UK subsidiary, because of its refusal to support the Kyoto anti-global warming treaty.

Raymond said it was too early to tell if the company's sales were affected.

He opposed forcing companies to reduce emissions of gases that some but not all scientists blame for rising global temperatures and favored more study, voluntary emission reductions and long-range technological fixes.

Activists also failed in their effort to get the company to promote renewable energy and to make a report on the possible environmental damage from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The most successful of the shareholder proposals would have changed company policy to expressly forbid discrimination against gays and lesbians. Raymond said the company's current anti-bias policy prohibits all forms of discrimination and is adequate.

But that explanation didn't satisfy the proposal's backers, who said about three-fourths of the 100 largest U.S. corporations have policies protecting gays from discrimination.

"It seems Exxon Mobil's defiance reflects an unease, a discomfort on the issue of sexual orientation," said Kenneth B. Sylvester, director of pension policy for the New York City Employees Retirement System, which offered the proposal. He hinted that Exxon Mobil's stance could offend gay consumers.

Before the meeting, about 50 protesters rallied across the street from the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, banging drums and listening to speeches. Inside the hall, security was heavy, and two protesters were escorted out when they unfurled a banner and chanted, "Stop Killing for Oil."


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 31, 2001


Raymond is right. There is absolutely no incentive for new refinery construction in this country. The environmentalists have won. They will get plenty of conservation, enough to choke on. It will definitely effect our standard of living, downward, of course.

-- Billiver (billiver@aol.com), May 31, 2001.

We might just as well follow Al Gore's advice, as espoused in his book, Earth In The Balance, and abolish the internal combustion engine....think of how much more conservation we would get if we did that.

-- R2D2 (r2d2@earthend.net), May 31, 2001.

Now this is one area where the overall gist of Bush's energy "streamlining" policies DO make sense.

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), June 01, 2001.

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