Spittin’ in the wind

When we last left Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil, the $479 billion fossil fuel empire he commands was proudly announcing a 29 percent increase in his annual compensation package. Well, Rex must have finished counting all that moolah, because he took the time last week to submit to a Q & A from The New York Times.

In the interview, published in Sunday’s Business section and adorned with a smiling photo of Rex, the Exxon Mobil chief put to rest all of this nonsense we’ve been hearing about the awl bidness going the way of the dinosaurs. ”Chief Says Exxon Will Keep Doing What It’s Doing,” the headline announced.

Rex was asked to comment on the absurd suggestion from some radical political quarters that the United States can’t drill its way out of the energy crisis, and that perhaps, maybe, it is time for America to think about a real alternative energy policy.

”The reason the United States has never had an energy policy is because an energy policy needs to be left alone for 15 to 20 years to take effect,” Rex declared. ”The answer is you can’t fix it right now.”

Rex then boldly told us that the first thing the U.S. needs to do to meet its energy needs is ”to look in the mirror.” While we are busy looking in the mirror, Rex indicated, the second thing we need to do is let Exxon Mobil rip into the coastal waters of California and Florida and pull some more oil out of the good, old U.S. bedrock.

Those rude fellows at the Times had the audacity to interrupt this important message and ask Rex why Exxon Mobil did not invest in new oil supplies when prices were low in the 1990s. ”You could say the industry paid a big price for overinvesting in the 1970s and 1980s,” responded the man who presides over a company that reported more than $40 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year.

The editors plowed on, asking the Exxon Mobil potentate to give the average American some advice on what to do about the hideous price of a gallon of gasoline. Displaying his common touch, Rex helpfully suggested that his fellow citizens ”use mass transportation and economize the trips they take.” Rex tastefully did not mention the hefty stipend he is receiving from Exxon Mobil this year to pay for his personal use of corporate aircraft. No point in rubbing it in.

Finally, the Times editors lobbed over a softball, asking Rex to predict whether oil and gas will still be Exxon Mobil’s dominant business in 20 years, and whether the world’s largest company will still, well, dominate. T-Rex hit the ball out of the park:

”Yes,” he humbly intoned. ”My view is I am going to keep doing what we do better than anyone else in the world.”

Unfortunately for Rex, he did not get the last word on the subject. Over on the opposite page of Sunday’s Business section a huge photo of a 30-foot-long wind turbine blade appeared in a story under the headline, ”Texas Approves a $4.93 Billion Wind-Power Project.”

The story detailed how Texas is undertaking the largest wind-power transmission project in the nation, aiming to dramatically expand its electricity derived from wind, already the largest in the U.S. at 5,300 installed megawatts. The $4.93 billion project will build a web of transmission lines that can carry 18,500 megawatts of wind-generated electricity.

The Times noted that this would produce enough power to service the entire city of Houston on a hot day when air-conditioners are running full blast. The newspaper did not point out that Exxon Mobil’s global headquarters is located in Houston.

They didn’t have to. The sharp end of the 30-foot turbine blade in the photo was pointing directly at Rex Tillerson’s happy visage on the opposite page.