Fifteen members of the Rockefeller family publicly called on ExxonMobil Corporation, the company which emerged from family patriarch John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil empire, to start looking beyond short-term oil profits in planning for a carbon-constrained future. The Rockefeller descendents, who today own a sizable but minority portion of shares in ExxonMobil, would also like to see the company fund a task force to study the consequences of global warming on poor economies as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emission at its own facilities around the world.
At a press conference last week, the Rockefeller descendants expressed concern that the Texas-based company is too focused on short term gains from soaring oil prices and should be doing more to invest in cleaner, greener energy sources and technologies. According to John D. Rockefeller's great granddaughter Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, ExxonMobil is "profiting in the short term from investments and decisions made many years ago by focusing on the narrow path that ignores the rapidly shifting energy landscape around the world, including developing nations."
The Rockefeller family members reported that they have been working behind the scenes for years to try to force the company to take a long-term outlook, and only decided to go public in the face of mounting concerns about climate change paired with inaction on the part of ExxonMobil's leadership. The group has filed four different shareholder resolutions this year alone calling into question the leadership of Rex Tillerson, who took over as CEO in January 2006. But with shares rising some 63 percent in the interim (versus the S&P 500's 11.4 percent gain over the same timeframe), it is easy for shareholders to ignore the calls to action.
For her part, Goodwin asked the company to reconnect with the forward-looking vision of her great grandfather. "Kerosene was the alternative energy of its day when he realized it could replace whale oil," she said. "Part of John D. Rockefeller's genius was in recognizing early the need and opportunity for a transition to a better, cheaper and cleaner fuel."