Father Crosby and ‘Losing Money on Purpose’
Acton Institute Powerblog

Father Crosby and ‘Losing Money on Purpose’

Shareholder resolutions intended to force Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. to adopt greenhouse gas reduction goals and name environmental experts (i.e. any scientist who believes human activity causes climate change) to their respective board of directors were defeated last week. Not only were they defeated, they were crushed. Chevron shareholders mustered only 9 percent support for GHG reductions and 20 percent for the environmentalist board member. Eighty percent of ExxonMobil shareholders rejected the additional board member, and only 10 percent voted for reducing GHG emissions.

Naturally, such progressive outlets as The Guardian sympathetically reported the proposals by touting the highly anticipated climate-change encyclical of Pope Francis, which is epected later this month. Of course, few outside the Vatican know exactly what the Pope will say in the document, but the Guardian goes so far as to draw a connection between the ExxonMobil and Chevron resolutions and the Pope. Readers are led to conclude that shareholders (As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, among others) introducing the shareholder resolutions represent all Catholics. The Pope also is Catholic, understand, so it should follow the oil companies oppose Catholics in favor of fossil fuels:

 ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson has a long history of civil but strained sparring with Father Michael Crosby and Sister Pat Daly at its annual shareholder meetings. Crosby is leading a group of investors calling for Exxon to give a seat on its board to an eminent climate expert, while Daly is pressing for emission targets that would set the company on the path away from fossil fuels.

All this is taking place against a backdrop of mounting external pressure on the oil group that makes the confrontation at this year’s gathering in Dallas, Texas, especially significant. It comes just weeks after Exxon dispatched a lobbyist and a planning executive to Rome in an attempt to brief the Vatican on global warming. Pope Francis is shortly to publish his encyclical on the environment, which could make uncomfortable reading for many in the oil and gas industry.

Good grief, Guardian! I don’t think that lobbying Catholics of any stripe – left-wing, progressive, and conservative or even the Pope – on a scientific matter as undecided and complicated as climate change should have as its aim the crippling or outright destruction of ExxonMobil or Chevron. They’re too busy supplying cheap and plentiful fuels to the world’s poorest, richest and middle-classiest, guaranteeing shareholder returns and hiring both low-skilled and high-skilled labor. As noted by ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson:

“Mankind has an enormous capacity to deal with adversity and those solutions will present themselves as the realities become clear, either through proved modeling…or as they are evidenced to us,” he told the audience. “I know that is a very unsatisfying answer to a lot of people. But it’s an answer that a scientist or engineer would give you.”

It’s going to be an “extraordinary challenge” to meet the world’s energy demands over the next several decades, “an important piece of which will be oil and natural gas, whether people like it or not. As to investment in renewables, quite frankly, Father Crosby, we choose not to lose money on purpose.” Tillerson’s response drew loud applause.

The CEO said it was not true that alternatives such as solar power were making any money. The “only way” alternative energies “survive is on the back of enormous government mandates and subsidies, which are not sustainable. We choose not to invest in businesses that require government mandates and subsidies for them to exist…”

ExxonMobil actually receives government subsidies for fossil fuels, Crosby argued. However, Tillerson shot him down. “We do not receive any subsidies,” he said. “We operate under the tax code, which applies broadly to businesses everywhere.”

I wasn’t present at the shareholder meeting, but had I been I would have joined in the applause following Tillerson’s comments directed toward Father Crosby. Tillerson is a businessman who understands science, engineering and economics while Crosby is a priest and an ideologue. Guess which one’s efforts are more beneficial for the majority of humanity?

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.