tv Book TV CSPAN January 26, 2013 12:00pm-1:00pm EST
adamson to discuss his life and career. on sunday >> now on book tv, a few programs for authors to have been nominated for 2013 national book critics circle awards. first, after words with steve call. his book takes a look at the corporation that has greater revenues than the economies of many western nations. this is a little under an hour. >> hi. thank you so much for joining a
state. congratulations on what is quite an achievement. >> thank you. >> first of all, i really enjoyed the book. it read like a novel. i mean, it really read like non-fiction in places, which are short and as a writer you encountered some of that feeling as well. i know as a reporter who has dealt with exxon mobil a good chunk of her career, how difficult it probably was to probe this company. let's start there. white exxon mobil? added you come to the subject? why this company? how was it -- how did it differ from some of your other subjects? >> it is an interesting -- to me it was an interesting journey because, as you point out, i started out as a business reporter on wall street when i was young. then i went abroad and worked on more national subjects. after september 11 the road
about the origins of those attacks and 20 years of american covert policy in afghanistan. then after that was over i thought, i want to keep writing about america and the world after september 11th. this asymmetric groping that we had as a country to understand what the text for about, what the mint, with the relationship with the middle east was. that led me to the bin laden's which was a book intended to be about saudi arabia and its modernization and how complicated it was for the generation of the rumors that osama belonged to to the 70's when the kingdom was just awash in wealth and they had to all go out and buy identities in the world. one of them became a notorious terrorist and the others all moved to florida. and so that interested me. when i was finished with the project really wanted to write about oil and american power in the post september love of context. so i started out actually -- the project did not begin as a book
about exxon mobil. began as a book about oil and geopolitics. i wanted to essentially take the price, the book that inspired me as a young man and updated. you know, i thought it was a great work of nonfiction about the era of oil that was an era of expansion in discovery. one to do was write a book about global oil in the era of limits and constraints and climate. and so i started out on that kind of open from work. i got about six, eight months into the research and thought to myself, i really need is subject to my company. once i've came to that conclusion then for an american audience i thought exxon mobil would be my choice. so i backed into the mess the subject. and did not quite realize what i was getting into when they were forced upon me. and did not know how close they were, how difficult they were to report on. i thought it would be a normal
operation. i also did not understand that much about their distinctive internal culture. a lot of that three and a half years that remain was about discovering what exxon mobil really was. >> and over the course of this reporting that bp deep water rises bill. were you at that point, did i pick the wrong company? >> a joke to my journalist friends, there must be a word in german that describes what journalists feel when other people suffer but you get an ending to your book. i thought, well, this bill, the catastrophe of an impartial disaster on that scale, it did provide a kind of contextual bookend for the valdez spill which is a sort of story for modern exxon mobil. a story they tell themselves. they tell themselves the story that they were scared straight by the valdez and that the reforms themselves in a lot of who they are traces to the reforms the star with an
accident. so the deepwater horizon accident could be a bookend. at one stage when i was wrestling with how to make the book more specific i did consider doing a narrative of exxon mobil and pp. my regret was maybe i should have. but looking back on it, it would have been too much reporting. i would never have gotten underneath the surface. >> let's talk about that because that is an interesting point. starting the book out with valdez and making it knew. some of your narrative i thought needed new. and then ending with the people are horizon disaster in the gulf of mexico in april 2010. as a person that really jumped into -- and a you read a lot of the transcripts from the exxon valdez incident, did you see any parallels? i did a little bit. as a reporter i did not cover valdez. i was young then. i did cover the border horizon. in your description and the response to my did see -- it
almost seems like bp took a page and other playbook. the you see that all? you are seeing the coverage. >> definitely. there were definitely parallels. of listed more than it comes to my mind, but the few that come to mind. in the decade running up there were warning signs that exxon was not operating in a consistent manner in a way that would give you the highest possible reassurance that such a catastrophic accident could not take place. in fact, in the decade before the valdez exxon cut 80,000 out of the 180,000 employees. they reorganize their entire state department, entire environmental department. obviously the fact that the tanker captain with a drinking problem to head the arrests was still in his job making more than a hundred thousand dollars a year in $1,989, that's not the exxon mobile you would expect
today. so there was a series of warning signs that culminated in the accident. the same is true of pp. i had the impression from people in the industry that tepees record as a week operator and that texas city plant, the osha record, the fact that they basically had a culture in this strategy that emphasizes engineering at the expense of operating discipline was pretty well known in the industry. i sort of came to the conclusion after talking with people for three or four years that if you call the people in the oil industry in the morning of the border horizon incident the following thing has happened, did you think the supervisor was upper in that platform, you were of a strong majority for bp. so that was there. the second parallel was the preparation for actually mitigating the disaster. in both cases there were a lot of paper plan say we can handle this, and then the reality was
there or not in a position to do so. and then the kind of public relations narrative, learning how to deal with all of the communities and traumas. i think probably bp had the benefit of 20 years of learning about corporate crisis management. in those days this whole philosophy of how you communicated immediately go up on television and telling people you will make things right, that was not as well developed as a strategy. anyway. >> i agree. the aftermath strikes me more than what happened before both of the disasters in terms of as a reporter after the deepwater horizon, bp gobbled up every expert on any kind of -- you could not find an expert to save your life. that wasn't on bt's peril. there was a control that emanates through this book.
it eliminated after bp in terms of controlling the message, controlling access to people that could independently talk to reporters about what happened. very technical subjects, again. so you go everywhere in this book. you globetrots. and you also tackle numerous environmental issues from global warming to obviously the spill at sea in a tanker to leaky underground storage tanks, into the ecb which i covered in my early career. connections to the oil company because its integrated and control the oil from cradle to grave. how did you pick out the evidence? this is a company that goes back to standard oil days. there is a treasure trove. as a reporter i know it's difficult to abuse that sister.
which-you going to pick. how did you pick up the and it gets for this book? >> i started out with a map. one such as exxon mobile as the subject of basically looked at the map. i just basically ask myself as a reporter, what kind of world is this? wire there? and then i became interested in traveling across the map because, as you pointed out earlier, they are a closed subject. there were not excited to learn that i was doing this book. the did not volunteer. they handled my inquiries in a professional way, but they did not really cooperate very much. i think maybe they would say the relative to some project the corporate more than usual, but from the perspective of the ambition of the book, oil was hopeful, it was pretty limited. and basically had to go outside in. once i started this process, studded with the map. the first year i travel a fair amount out into the field where
they operated much like to understand their role, their sense of themselves as an independent sovereign, how they operate, why they're in some of these countries like about the reserve replacement challenges, learning about why equity will it week states has evolved as part of a portfolio. and i came back to the united states and thought, well, i have a pretty good first draft sense of how they operate abroad. i really need to concentrate on the washington strategy in the lobbying and political strategy. so i then turned to the tools they use as a report to go outside and which is basically lawsuits and disclosures. so to get at the american subject i basically looked at all their lobbying disclosures and map those out. okay. what of a lobbying about? and an example of something that popped out. when the lobbying? and in the summer of 2008 there
were all over the subject. it was the dated a basically said, there has to be something here. and just to finish among the lawsuits, they get sued by everybody over everything. it's a great tool to be will to look us civil litigation because in those cases records and testimony produced even if the exxon mobil policy is to never give interviews. executives have to testify. so i was looking for cases that told of structural stories that were points of entry into the corporation. when i found was this gasoline spill in maryland where realized searching the litigation records , starting with in tbn fought my way down. i finally realized, there was a huge trial record around what had been one of the largest gasoline spills area that depended on fresh ground water supply to our offers or was a particularly dangerous bill. and it had gone to trial. the trial was over and there was
this massive record of testimony by exxon mobil executives plus documents that had been produced, and it was just a gift i went straight into the retelling in downstream division of exxon mobil through this trial record in the way and i could never have done to interviewing. opportunistic is the short answer for how you choose the subjects. you just keep looking on the map and then suddenly you see wait until the story. >> what's interesting is despite how broad they are in terms of geography and in terms of subject matter, the lesson, i think what is the same. i think it also comports with the public perception of the exxon which is this company that is rigid, all powerful, you don't want to mess with to put it colloquially. so i guess anything that you came across surprise you or kind of fed outside of that narrative? it seems to me the book, all the stories kind of come back to that in the for ways.
each one has a different kind of taken it. some of its parts, this image of this company that really comports with what everybody kind of in their gut feel is. >> they are who they are. and the reason that it's true, that the same kind of decision making in the same kind of culture and in celerity, rigidity, they might say focus, consistency is present in indonesia and the equatorial guinea and suburban maryland and the washington offices because they have constructed a global system. global policies that are so unified and so codify and so distributed down all of their channels of operation that nothing more than any corporation i have every counted as a journalist, everyone who works there gets up in the morning and is reading off of the same playbook. it's almost like a military
operation or a sports team that is exceptionally well organized around the same playbook. and i think they're kind of self-conscious about the military metaphor. there are unusual among corporations and that everyone who is at the top group together. he took the top 100 publicly traded corporations and you chose the top 40 jobs in each of those corporations and the map to the people work, you would find that there would be a significant number of people came from a competing company laterally late in their career as an executive. then moved over arkin, another industry. they came in with performing a diaz. most corporations are formed at the top by at least some outside perspective. at exxon everybody comes up from college, graduate school. if you were selected for management tracking you grew up together over 34 years. such the marine corps. you don't become a marine corps general by having a successful career at ibm and decide you want to go where to start on
your shoulders. you grow up, share a common view of the world. what you observe as a reader of the book, whether it is a lawsuit in venezuela or a civil war in indonesia or a gasoline spill in maryland, the stories all seem to end the same way. then there's a reason for that. that is their system. >> but late in the book, and that they that as a person that has covered the environment for as long as i have, the surprise me. you get into hydraulic fracturing which is now all over the news. the interior department today is going to put out rules for fracking on public land. correct me if i wrong, but you almost make the case that that corporate philosophy gave them a blood spot. even more surprising because you make an amazing point, and i remember this. as a young engineer the company,
he was using the technique. and so do you think in that one case, that corporate philosophy of manager risks, make sure we make a certain return on what we do hindered them from tapping into what is now is used economic opportunity in this country with natural gas? >> there were slow, but they are often slow. then there decisive. they get there late in by there weekend. they've never had a reputation faugh. they have a story they tell themselves about their successes. and they have some degree by and large their strength is financial and operating. generally if they fail to discover something for themselves they can buy it.
they've been trying to develop a 2005 and six increasingly looked like a real opportunity. they were going out and doing the kind of land gains in buying up leases, putting together one path to the time and trying to build something. at this deal for them to be a player than needed to come in big. if one thing that is interesting to me, another of the large -- largest producer of unconventional. >> of course they are. >> you can become the largest of almost anything. what is interesting, and i wonder what you think about this. as a challenge of climate legislation, carbon crisis, analogous strategic challenge that they faced in the earlier generation, where they dealt
with resistance to their investments in their thinking with a pretty aggressive strategy. fracking is not just of is this challenge. not just a geological challenge, not just an engineering challenge. also a political challenge. there is an enormous amount of anxiety building up. when these consequences. induced earthquakes in places that did not previously have them. no, the poster child of a rigid, very corporate, very kind of stiff and profit driven approach to these challenges. and they strategically have a problem over time. can they actually adapt themselves to the kind of trust building and political coalition building that will prove durable or will they take their systems approach our way or the highway
and end up defeating themselves in some respect? the cat in a bit tougher public response than it would otherwise get if there were a separate. >> would they align themselves with the other companies that are doing this? some cases, they are the odd man out. they are kind of pursuing what they want to pursue and doing it their way and taking no punches and no excuses, which brings me -- i have a conversation this morning with ellen jefferies. and now you know the name well. i asked about the book. and i want to get a reaction to his reaction from you which i think you'll find very exxon mobile ask. i am paraphrasing. he basically said essentially how we see the book, it's telling the story of a commitment to safety and community. may not be a popular or fashionable or conservative
approach, but we think it's a good quality in the company of this type. basically i said, that's how we are. take it. that's the were saying. as you probably know, exxon mobile this report through this book. what is your response? >> i appreciate that he is dealing with it in a professional way. they are basically about media, journalists, political opposition, environmental groups . they basically say in their channel. that is what he's doing. he is saying, we are who we are. that is essentially their strategic position. sometimes we are who we are feels a little bit like can you really be -- have the strength of the operating system which is considerable. safety driven, focused on
operating excellence and so forth. there are pretty good reputation in the business as project operators. uni with a code dictators and we want someone to develop our oil and we one of the project to come in on time, on budget, and to get paid early, we would definitely entertain their power point presentation because they have a record of project management. where they get into trouble is where they extrapolate these kind of operating systems, this rigidity into political affairs, you know, the human factor. things that are made up of community, made up of social change. and their own record, for example, as a social entity that sells a corporation and the promotion of women, diversity, responding to the kind of world we live in. is not great. he can say that these conservative values are out of fashion, but we think that they are powerful, you know, that's fine if you're talking about
safety at the workplace. can they really succeed with this strategy in a world where they are so close to to the changing social make up. who is the educated workforce and the united states anymore? it's mostly women, more and more diverse. if you work it exxon and mobil and go on to your family thanksgiving dinner and say i work and exxon mobile, they suck in their breath in distain a worry, you know, that is not a winning strategy. something has to give. i'm not sure that they think that. >> it seems to me that kind of we are who we are in take-it-or-leave-it, we really don't care, has that backfired? having come a seems that could have been a force to cultivate more distrust and distaste and
helped make them, as you say in the book, you know, public enemy number one. >> yeah. well, it is a great question and a kind of complicated one. one of my goals as a reporter was to try to understand the best record and think about what it was like to be so unpopular. does it matter? because their default view is it doesn't matter to my to select a statement. we are we are. in truth i think there are consequences. part of it is talent recruitment and retention in the real world, the world of the arabs bring a generation. you can't get away with being detained by everybody. holder technological and scientific edge. scientists are ornery, independent-minded people. some of them may be willing to adapt to the economic rewards of a career. but it doesn't really feel like an open in changing place. in know, if you only have one
way of living in the world and problem sets and risk management are getting more and more diverse, you know, you can't afford to go into communities that already have a presumption the you're evil. the jury trials. yes, they can appeal of these verdicts cannot trillion dollar verdicts and eventually get the knocked down, but do you really want to go into every jury setting an know that you have to overcome the presumption that you're evil? i do think there are consequences. but the problem from their perspective is a state of the way out of this. one of the things they did was sick and the let's go back to history. is there some golden age of oil industry popularity that we could model as a basis for the winning strategy to make the answer is no. so it goes to the basic question of if we are who we are is there really a way to communicate about that that will change anybody's mind? isn't that just putting lipstick
should we just be straightforward, have a strategy is as we are who we are again and again and hope that allows enough people to come in to engage with us to realize our interest. that is what they have done. >> you know, it reminds me, he has also written a book. big questions. apple is no more valuable than exxon mobile. and it is also a secretive and it is also then scanned. but there cool. and everybody likes apple. >> everyone is going to cry. >> right. so bring that question full circle. have a two-part. do you think that strategy has kind of tarnished the rest of the royal business and people associate big oil with exxon and
everybody in big oil is bad? do you think it has spread to other companies? this seems to be kind of ten scandent control less secretive and still really happened : people can like you. >> it is interesting. i went back and look the companies around rise and fall. the companies in the 50's that were number one are to don't exist anymore. you look today, apple and exxon mobile are one and two. in years ago it was exxon mobile and walmart. microsoft was always in the mix. the look of 50 years. what is the one you think is more likely to still be around? that is one question. i read the biography by walter isaacson. terrific book. it is striking, both the completely different and that similar apple is to exxon mobile. of the country. only the united states to produce both apple index immobile because of the one hand
apple is a completely california bread creative 60's. in the book isaacson reports to steve jobs is to go into interviews and s serious job candid it's a fan ever done lsd in the hope that the answer would be yes. at exxon mobile the good a job interviews and say take this company provides a drug test. >> your paper cup. >> on the one hand they're very different in on the other hand there are the similarities. both coexisting, a command management, driven by a desire to control the environment. steve jobs desperately wants to control every element of the customer's experience, every element of design. they both were not good partners. it did not really believe in partnership. they believed in the advantages of total control. that makes them secretive because it is the secrecy that follows a desire for control, not secrecy as the index itself.
so it is fascinating. and then the other point about exxon mobil and its unpopularity, i came to think over time, most big industrialized democracies because of the nature of our energy economy all have big state oil companies. so yes, in the industrialized west most of those states have privatize them, but even bp, as recently as the 1980's. so but only in america do we have exxon mobilize our state oil company. much more coherent expression of our national energy policy than anything the federal government as. and they are just as powerful relative to the state as tallis to france and maybe even more so yet only in america would we have a state oil company that lives in opposition to the state in which it resides. shrek stiller sent recently told scouting magazine that his favorite book is that this charge by i'm rant.
that is a sort of touchstone for libertarians. it is an attitude of sort of skepticism, let's say generously toward the government that is peculiar. the equivalent company in france or italy or even in britain would be -- with have all gone to the same universities as the president of the united states. it would be buddies. it would be an interlocking sense of world youth and maybe even if they would work arm and arm with the french government abroad in order to secure the interest and so forth. but, you know, this country, we are skeptical of our government. and the last irony, we are also skeptical of concentrated power. so here, an institution with enormous concentrated power of his chief executive reads a book that is basically about the dangers of concentrated power in celebrates it. so were a fine country. >> one of the things that came out that i think is interesting
in goes to what you just said about the influence of washington. actually really fascinating because out of one side of their mouth they say they really don't want to play ball. yet there playing ball harder than others in some cases. they have direct lines, for instance, during a lee raymond days to dick cheney. call on washington when it helps them. the interest to get a geopolitical conflict. but one thing i found interesting. you talk in here about politicians getting it wrong. i think i found the page number. it is even more to add today. here it is. this quote from tillotson. the global free market for energy provides the most effective means of achieving u.s. energy security. the theory. does not really matter where you get oil from this one is to give more oil and put it in the bathtub and we have more supply. in the global market the nationality of the resources of little relevance. energy made in america is not as important as energy being simply
made wherever is most economic. >> shrek. >> exxon mobil has carried that message for a long time. it goes back to raiment. tillotson. obviously communicating it to a lot of the republican allies. that point. lobbying is heavily skewed to the republicans and the party. yet that is not the message you are hearing from politician today. you're hearing a very almost resource nationalist approach to u.s. domestic energy production. >> and exxon mobile is not too embarrassed to join in that. >> right. right. i guess it is kind of shocking to me. i'm asking for an explanation here. how can this all-powerful company with huge influence, lot of change the political discourse to make it actually more a year to the facts of how the oil market works? also engage in it, as you say. >> i think they have had influence over elites and the
estates. educating. they carried at this very intense education campaign to try to bring what they call informed influential in government around government and media into their conversation about how the global oil markets actually work. most politicians don't have time or interest to study these kind of complexities. and one of the executives interviewed told me that one of the world leaders to understand best, how the global oil markets really are coming into british liquid and nationalism, though it can be relevant, is not what it seems. energy independence. and this executive was talking tony blair. he said, you know, you are one of the few people who run the government to actually understand how the oil markets work. isn't that a shame. there supposedly said something like, you would not one of the politicians know because then they think they would do something about it. >> one that sticks in my mind. it's happening right now in washington on both parties to
both parties are trying to get a handle and show that they are reacting to gasoline prices when in fact there really have very little power over gasoline prices. >> exactly. but this question of what are the benefits of energy independence or the energy independence meeting, even though the weight is used in political campaigns is frustrating because it is so divorced from the actual subject matter. there is a real subject that is important and interesting. it is changing. exxon will position in the quest for energy independence is also changing. basically while it is true that being a net exporter or a net importer of oil is not really the right way to think about energy security because everybody is a price taker. it does not matter whether you're selling the buying. the price is a global price. that is not true of natural gas, which is more regionally priced. and there has been some
evolution toward a global integrated gas market, but we're not there yet. and so in the united states if we have on shore natural gas that is really cheap for a long time, that could make a big difference in the economy. it could reduce the cost of manufacturing. it could change our energy mix in the way that is favorable response to climate change, and while, you know, being a net importer or a net exporter may not matter in some of the way politicians talk about it, it does matter to our balance of trade, the amount of dollars that we send abroad ton from the regime's forces those that we keep at home and reinvest. if we do shift more energy independence, whether we call it nationalist language or economic language, there will be advantages. they're just not the advantages that politicians have often described. >> well, the current events that i was thinking about in reading this book was going back to the days of raymond.
that was a brilliant chapter. exxon has kind of sean alternatives for good reason. they are oil company. the businesses of oil. in a want to hear about hydrogen . but have you. an excellent point, frustrating the energy reporters in how people makes electricity side of energy production with transportation. but i could not help think this piece in the book where they talk into the year of alan greenspan, and alan greenspan is on the helen basically saying his speech. if on solyndra, which is a solid company that has grabbed headlines and failed, it big oil was behind that given that they have animosity toward renewals and the subsidies renewal will require. dec any evidence of that? >> the government making a bad
loan. >> became a bad loan, but fan the flames of the criticism and not one? >> i think the trade group in washington, they are a spot of communication machine that seizes every opportunity. the political allies to the same thing. but, yes. i think the underlying question about alternatives and exxon mobile is, you know, there are corporation against pursue whatever business strategy they want. the question is, as a country do we want to create subsidies and incentives for a shift alternatives, the loan program that ends up the solyndra providing. why would we? so if you look at it, we have been talking about how everybody in this country shares an interest in the lowest cost energy possible consistent with a sustainable environment. that is the dilemma. you want the lowest cost energy, but you also want to achieve your environmental goals. we may not define as in the same
way, but he talked about a rapid shift and costly shift from cheap coal and oil and gas to more expensive but clear renewals, you better have a good reason to do that. now, the reason that is the most compelling in the world we live in today. if you believe, as i do, 97 percent of mainstream scientists and their warnings and findings entirely convincing so if you believe that why you have reason to indoor short-term costs for long-term gain. but if you want to try to convince the public that there is no risk, then the case gets much harder, which is why exxon mobil's resistance to the basic findings of climate change was so pernicious and damaging because their is a residue of doubt and the public about the validity of climate science and the plan a threat. and scientists tell us there should not be such doubt. why is there? well, these interesting parties
funded a campaign to make communication campaign. of course, the american people are entitled to their own opinion, but that campaign was clearly in for a joke. >> also, thought that was a really interesting part of the book because you make -- to be a red as this strategy that was invented by exxon. a company that really was in the business of scientific doubt, funding research. it was great. i love that part. on the beaches. being tagged by a yacht. hiring scientists who want to know what they're up to and criticized the methods. the oil was still there after all the years. and that tactic now seems rampant in our political culture
as a reporter you are now seeing important. the science of climate change is that theory. the theory is many, many people. a valid theory. now you're seeing areas that are almost rock-solid. politicians now on the floor talking about the linkage between smog in asthma. to you looked at at this and i like to make a more responsible for that kind of tactic. it seems now is a very common one. let's not talked about the regulation. trying to address. >> i think that they have a responsibility. they really were a distinctive investor in that specific strategy. because when the accords were signed there was a lot of opposition to them in the united
states and in the industrialized world, economic grounds, fairness grounds. some of it was about the science . there were a lot of different groups that opposed kyoto for the economic in fairness regions . exxon mobile was very unusual in my judgment in the aggression that it brought to the science part of the campaign. really funding groups whose principal activity was to communicate has not scientists a narrative of doubt about what was emerging. that is, i'm afraid, a tactic that is more and more present or science and public policy intersect. it's dangerous because our whole progress as an industrialized democracy depends on an honest argument about science home in the public good.
if we are going to have to especially in this fractured media times, a completely polluted argument with the public is trying to acting give faith, going to end up damaging our society. >> now, this book makes clear that exxon is almost an impenetrable forces as a company. when you get to climate change -- and i'm biased. it it really seems that this really scares them. there is this great -- until then there was only one unexpected development, one black swan intervention that could shift the curve of rising global oil demand which obviously exxon enjoys. it decision by governments to limit greenhouse gas emissions by heavily taxing or tapping the use of carbon based fuels is that a fair estimation? that issue because of what it could do to oil is what really
really kind of had been shaking in their boots. >> at think it got their attention. it was a combination of power was a very existential threat. the reason we were talking before. they had overcome the previous systematic threat to oil production in the world which were spills and environmental damage and the seepage of oil into water and it supplies and air pollution. all of that have been more or less brought into a sustainable compact of regulator and regulated. they have themselves adapted. they accepted the validity of the environmental goals read comes to spills and air pollution and so forth. they impose costs on themselves in order to build a sustainable compact. just a moment when they have cruising speed of all the other in burma to issues that arose in the first year for decades of oil, now comes this other existential more abstract global
challenge to the primacy of fossil fuels and a system. i think that was one factor. personally as a trained chemical engineer and as a very direct manner determined chief executive decided that he would just say what he thought and use the resources to prosecute. most even if they had that conviction would not have acted as aggressively as he did. and so i ask the men will point, surely you could have handled the cost of modest carbon pricing legislation. look your cash flow, your profitability. why was this -- air pollution regulation, spill regulation. you pride yourself on your compliance with regulatory regimes that impose costs on new
for making the oil industry sustainable in a political environment. why not just a down to these regulations? you know, i found his answer not convincing. he sort of said the cost would be too great. the break of the american economic process. a visceral reaction to kyoto that exxon mobil had that was kind of out of line with their actual business interest. i understand if you are a coal company in the see it coming. this really could be existential, but the oil industry, because of the mix of gas which is a lower footprint, they have an opportunity to adapt to this and more forward leaning way and frankly the european company saw that. they moved with much more deftness. >> another idea that i found really interested in the book that you raise a couple of times, at least twice that i can
remember. you're not hearing in of all right now in washington. gasoline prices. regulating gasoline prices. and how the public right and how we regulate that because it got out of control. people would of the will to turn the lights on. why are we hearing that more? when it comes to gas. should we be hearing more as a solution to everything the government could do? >> said think it is a very serious question. the reason we don't hear more about it is because the political arguments re-entering campaign season about gas prices are just theater. they are not serious arguments. but the point you make this really important. you flip on the switch in this room and generate power in the company profits from that use the power. that company is a utility that is regulated by a public
interest standard in every state court jurisdiction. the public interest standard is there, and that is our history with the provision of electricity. so important, so fundamental, so your staple that we require profitable companies that provided to meet certain public-interest standards and to be accountable to the public for the performance. we tax their profits often. now, in the case of exxon mobile , they are global company the of discovering oil. no one is going to regulate them in the public interest. this is a similar utility function, and in fact if you were a commuting construction worker you go to the pump. you have a choice. put it in that whenever prices there, and you can understand why you have no accountability and control over that kind of track the urine. i think it is a sort of an --
history that we treat the provision of gasoline is entirely a free-market function without any public interest oversight. some taxes and some environmental regulation, but we treat electricity as a public utility. in many other countries they organize things differently. i don't know that there is any easy way to fix this, but exxon will recognize the problem because they're popularity arises from the fact that their brand name is stuck and all these bombs were people are angry. no business basically deliberately tries to put its customers into a position a paid while there staring at the brand >> and you make that point in the book that that is the only way they're visible. >> otherwise people really don't understand the whole oil process. people are watching. deep of short it editorial getty as you travel in the book. all we really see of them is that tighter in the tank. their brand name. >> describes. toward the end of his career he said to the board, for all the
reasons you just listed, why don't we just did at the gasoline business. take are signs. what we just -- know what gets up in the morning saying dupont is evil. the huge industrial corporation, whenever a strength for weaknesses. it's invisible by comparison. >> one of the other points the you make later in the book in reference to the discussion about energy policy in kind of the lack of u.s. energy policy or a least a coherent one. you made the point earlier, the conversation that exxon is the u.s. policy. but politicians have kind of struggle with that because at the end of the day it requires the public to make sacrifice. they really don't want to sit there. it all want to go there because once you go there people start to say, hey, i know what to do that. every poll we have that the associated press on energy always says, we want to produce a climate change and we want clean air, but we really don't want to have our electricity
bill got to do that which is a consequence of any kind of market. and also a consequence of carbon tax. that drove down to the consumer in changes have it. so turning the tables a little bit. exxon is the bad guy. it seems to me that our inability as of public to make sacrifices makes us more beholden to these companies that we don't like. >> right. well, i think there is truth in that. and it is interesting. trying to think about this question of the price that people have to pay to address climate change in particular. at think no public in any era wants to volunteer fire prices in there household expenditures. our politics say that where the public saw threat, if they taught their children were more likely to get as more developed respiratory diseases because of
air pollution that was an address to that their children were likely to more likely be exposed to cancer as a result to pollution and water supply, people were willing to pay a price, whatever was, to protect their living generations. the problem is, over the horizon. the dangers are serious but abstract. so you may be motivated to take my grandchildren. and i want to put my grandchildren and a world where there are 3 degrees higher than we have now. but it is not the same. this cost-benefit equation is part of the problem. the other thing about what you observed. there is in the government in the world where politicians don't want to make gasoline is cheap as possible. to chickens. most of the world governments over subsidize to the doe will with the -- deal with the public anger.
and so here we let market prices rule. then we had a bunch of taxes for mediating some of the environmental cost. you get a politician as they have a plan to make gasoline even more expensive. you're not going to find them lining of for that. >> that "from obama within an added boarding california races that as a result of captain trade gasoline necessarily skyrockets. that has been recycled. he was being honest. you're going to have to go out if you put a price of carbon. that has come back to bite him over and over. on subsidies, let's talk about that. obviously has a distain. very clear in the book for the crutch every noble's need to be economic. exxon mobile as the company seems to loathe any kind of questions. >> they want them for their own.
>> right. the huge debate right now. the president is pushing to end tax breaks that all companies have enjoyed. they make these enormous profits. they continue to happen. did that come up? kind of pointing out a little bit of hypocrisy at think. >> well, i felt stalemated around that question. i still feel like i don't quite know what to think about it. basically there are some tax breaks that oil companies alone get through interpreting appeals about how the oil industry in specific. most of these allowances are manufacturing allowances. they just happen to be manufacturers of gasoline as opposed to tractors are something else. in making too much money. people are paying too much gas.
that is a reasonable public policy. to just say that these are subsidies only for the oil industry, not sure that that is actually correct. i don't quite know -- i know it's great politics. i get that. part of the reason this case happening is because it's grape politics and there is no danger of these laws passing. you can say whatever you want about them. but i think it is a serious question as to how you should restructure american energy policy. also imposing greater cost on it. i'm sure there would be delighted to hear that. i think they should be doing more to facilitate a national energy policy goal addressing the serious risks of global warming by moving as rapidly and economically as possible to the energy. but i don't think that stripping of manufacturing subsidies and then not reproducing those funds to achieve that national goal is
very persuasive. at the the first thing to do is put a price of carbon. put it in a substantial a predictable way so that all companies to respond and we can get moving in direction we need to go. >> we have a few more minutes, and i have to get to canada. i found the canadian section later in the book interesting. very clear from what you write that prior to keystone xl and so was infuriated with the u.s. approach to canadian imports. the tar sands. as you and i both know and energy intensive to extract huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. just in the extraction process. but now i guess after the book was written that kind of goes right to the heart of that. above all reject keystone
pipeline. i am assuming that you would conclude that exxon is also as serious as it was back then. >> i think that they are just -- they don't quite know what to do about the politics of the keystone pipeline because in their boat is such -- it is so irrational that they almost cannot overcome their own sort of indignity about how disconnected the politics of the pipeline is. the tar sands, the oil sands, their role in that in the global oil market. basically it is a continuation of will was described earlier. >> absolutely. the same thing. >> trying to attack the problem. even the environmentalists would admit, i'm sure, that if they could enact universal price on carbon is the basis for
addressing climate change and the dangers of global warming it would. they fail to do that to miss another looking to keep their issue alive by looking for opportunities to call attention. they have chosen the oil sands because it is available, not because it is their preferred solution to global warming. but they made an example. and basically they're trying to leverage their own popularity a pipeline in general. not in my backyard politics and keep this issue moving. from canada's perspective i am sure it is aggravating. from the oil industry perspective is definitely a grinning because the pipeline that would otherwise make economic sense is being punished for campaigning reason, not because of some policy framework . the truth is that if keystone is
not built, either president obama is going to reverse the judgment that he is made to get in soaker this campaign and where another whether romney administration will build the pipeline. then $3 ditch your cup of coffee at starbucks. but even if keystone work still the committees would just exported to china. it's actually not that big a deal for them. >> the greenhouse gases are going to happen either way. >> and less candid changes its policy toward the sand. >> thank you very much. i enjoyed the conversation. congratulations again on the book. >> thank you. >> that was book tv signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy
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