Just like your telephone doesn’t look anything like the one you used when you were a child. The way we drill oil, produce and transport it is more efficient and effective to protect the environment in much better ways than we ever could before. We really can develop this resource and deliver it in a safe, reliable and responsible way. A lot of the old fears that people carry around with them really are outdated and we try to get people to reexamine those, and look at them in the context of the high tech world we live in today.
ExxonMobil has been criticized about the revenue they’ve enjoyed while consumers are scraping by. Do you feel that corporations have a responsibility in terms of alleviating the pressures that consumers might feel from high gas prices?
The price itself is very difficult for a lot of families, and we do know that, but even more painful then the price itself is the real risk that comes from policies that might interrupt that supply. Not having the supply would be devastating to people’s livelihoods. What we can do about that is get more supply; both in terms of crude oil but also natural gas and manufacture more gasoline.
We’ve seen vivid examples of how painful it is when you can’t get the product at all, like when the recent hurricanes caused shortages in the supply chain. And we all saw pictures on the news of long lines at gas stations in mid-Atlantic states where people couldn’t get fuel.
What policy steps might interrupt the supply?
We’re already the most heavily taxed industry in the country. In our case, for every dollar of profit, we pay about $2.50 in taxes.
Yes, when prices are high like we’ve had, we’re doing pretty well. But the investments we have to make are these long lead times that are enormous. A single project can cost us $15 billion and take us six to eight years to implement. We’re investing huge amounts of money where there is no income coming in from that investment and we have no idea what the price is going to be 10 years from now. So the risks in this business are still enormous. If you take too much of our revenue stream away from us by increasing the tax burden, then you lower our ability to take that risk. Our level of profitability goes directly to our ability to provide the supply in the years ahead.
Everyone is looking to reduce carbon emissions and use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and biofuels. How do you see ExxonMobil transforming and evolving to meet the desire for a greener world and economy?
That defines the biggest issue we are facing today. Almost any forecast you want to look at will show that 25 years from now energy demand is going to grow because populations grow and economic activity grows.
Today, oil and gas account for 60% of our energy. Twenty-five years from now, they are still