Trump eyes ac­com­plished ex­ec­u­tive for State

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Pres­i­dent-elect Donald Trump has found an ac­com­plished Amer­i­can ex­ec­u­tive in Rex Tiller­son, but one whose long­stand­ing sup­port for free trade, in­ter­na­tional law and an ex­pan­sive US pres­ence in the Mid­dle East largely doesn’t fit with what Trump has pitched to sup­port­ers.

A na­tive of Wi­chita Falls, Texas, Tiller­son came to Exxon Mo­bile Corp as a pro­duc­tion en­gi­neer straight out of the Univer­sity of Texas at Austin in 1975 and never left. Groomed for an ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion, Tiller­son came up in the rough-and-tum­ble world of oil pro­duc­tion, hold­ing posts in the com­pany’s cen­tral United States, Ye­men and Rus­sian op­er­a­tions.

His nom­i­na­tion as the coun­try’s top diplo­mat would be the nascent Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most con­crete out­reach yet to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Suc­cess in Rus­sia re­quired align­ing the com­pany’s in­ter­ests with those of the Rus­sian govern­ment, met­tle and good re­la­tions with Putin. Exxon steadily ex­panded its Rus­sian busi­ness even as its ri­vals faced ex­pro­pri­a­tion and reg­u­la­tory ob­sta­cles, and in 2013 Putin be­stowed the Or­der of Friend­ship on Tiller­son.

In 2006, Tiller­son won the bat­tle to suc­ceed for­mer Exxon CEO Lee Ray­mond. Un­der the Texan’s lead­er­ship, oil prices broke records and Exxon’s prof­its helped make it the most valu­able pub­lic com­pany in the world, with a se­cu­rity force to­tal­ing thou­sands of em­ploy­ees, di­rect chan­nels with gov­ern­ments world­wide and a strong aver­sion to Amer­i­can sanc­tions or lim­i­ta­tions on where it could op­er­ate.

Tiller­son has used Exxon’s enor­mous prof­its to ex­plore new re­gions for oil and gas and to in­vest in new ac­qui­si­tions like XTO Re­sources, a com­pany that had helped pi­o­neer drilling for nat­u­ral gas in for­ma­tions of shale in the United States. But over the years oil has be­come more dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive to find as large, easy-to-tap reser­voirs in sta­ble coun­tries were slowly de­pleted. Exxon and other gi­ant oil cor­po­ra­tions found it ever more dif­fi­cult to re­place the oil they sold ev­ery day with new re­sources, and they were forced to look in ev­ery more dif­fi­cult and hos­tile re­gions for oil and gas.

Hands-off ap­proach

“En­ergy made in Amer­ica is not as im­por­tant as en­ergy sim­ply made wher­ever it is most eco­nomic,” he said in 2007 in a speech to the Coun­cil on Foreign Re­la­tions. “We are free-mar­ket, free-trade ad­vo­cates,” he said in an­other speech to the group five years later, declar­ing that the great­est boon for Amer­i­can en­ergy se­cu­rity would be sup­port for oil pro­duc­tion and trad­ing world­wide.

While Tiller­son ad­vo­cates for a hands-off ap­proach to mar­kets, he’s backed con­tin­ued Amer­i­can en­gage­ment in the Mid­dle East. Af­ter the Iraq war, Exxon agreed to de­velop a large project in still-un­sta­ble south­ern Iraq at terms that less fa­vor­able to Exxon than most deals. In 2011, Tiller­son an­nounced an ex­pan­sive re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia’s Ros­neft that will spend years and bil­lions of dol­lars de­vel­op­ing tech­nol­ogy to ex­plore and pro­duce oil and gas in icy wa­ters in the Rus­sian Arctic. While the rev­o­lu­tion­ary gains from shale frack­ing have poised the US to sup­ply far more of its own en­ergy, Tiller­son has said it would be a mis­take to step back. “The ques­tion you have to ask is, ‘Well then, who steps into that void,’” he said, sug­gest­ing it would be a “large con­sum­ing coun­try” such as China.

While his pre­de­ces­sor was a firm skep­tic about the link be­tween fos­sil fuel com­bus­tion and cli­mate change, Tiller­son has soft­ened the com­pany’s po­si­tion on the is­sue, even if he’s un­con­vinced by the most dire pre­dic­tions of the con­se­quences. At an in­dus­try con­fer­ence in 2007, Tiller­son ac­knowl­edged Earth’s cli­mate is chang­ing, the av­er­age tem­per­a­ture is ris­ing and green­house gas emis­sions are in­creas­ing. He also noted that cli­mate re­mains a com­plex area of sci­en­tific study.

Exxon re­mains un­der fire for its past ef­forts to un­der­cut cli­mate change - even as re­cently ex­posed in­ter­nal doc­u­ments show the com­pany’s own sci­en­tists rec­og­nized cli­mate change’s le­git­i­macy as early as the 1970s.

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