Who is potential Trump Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?

Posted at 3:07 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-12 15:07:32-05
Sources say ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson is the leading candidate for Secretary of State.

Sources say ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson is the leading candidate for Secretary of State.

Rex Tillerson, 64, has served as head of ExxonMobil’s oil empire since 2006. He will reach the company’s mandatory retirement age of 65 in March and is expected to retire then.

Through the end of 2015, Tillerson made more than $240 million as CEO, according to an analysis from board and executive data provider Equilar. That total includes his base salary, bonuses, stock awards and other compensation over 10 years.

Tillerson, born in Wichita Falls, Texas, has spent his entire career at Exxon. He started work there as as a production engineer right after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.

Tillerson said the country’s energy policy should be more at the forefront when government officials travel overseas. “Energy supply ought to be part of the early discussions,” he said. “What can we do to improve energy security, for the both of us?”

He’s an Eagle Scout and served as national president of the Boy Scouts of America between 2010 and 2012.

A softer stance on climate change

Tillerson has worked to soften ExxonMobil’s stance on climate change since taking the helm of the company in 2006. At that time, Exxon was struggling with how to balance its corporate interests with a growing public consensus on global warming, according to Steven Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”

Under former CEO Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil promoted skepticism about the science of climate change. Raymond railed against the Kyoto Protocol in a 1997 speech in China, saying the need for costly regulations and restrictions had “yet to be proven.” He also claimed the greenhouse effect mostly came from natural sources. He later dialed down his position and admitted global warming needed to be addressed, but remained a staunch opponent of any formal regulations.

When Tillerson — a longtime Raymond deputy — took charge, ExxonMobil saw an opening to quietly begin adjusting its position on climate change, according to Coll. In 2007, the company publicly admitted climate change presents risks, and said it is responsible policy to begin working to reduce emissions.

“While there are a range of possible outcomes, the risk posed by rising greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be significant,” Tillerson said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2007. “So it has been ExxonMobil’s view for some time that it is prudent to take action while accommodating the uncertainties that remain.”

The company often emphasizes technical solutions that won’t hurt energy output or disproportionately raise consumer costs. Tillerson touted, in a speech in Abu Dhabi last month, an Exxon partnership that’s researching how fuel cells can be used to capture emissions from power plants.

This approach hasn’t shielded the company entirely. New York’s attorney general announced in November 2015 his office is investigating whether ExxonMobil withheld information from shareholders and the public about the risks of climate change. Massachusetts launched a similar investigation into the company in April 2016. ExxonMobil denies the allegations.

Friend of Russia

Tillerson has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2011, Exxon inked a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to provide access to lucrative oil resources in the Arctic. The agreement could be a point of contention if Tillerson is appointed, especially since Democrats and national security experts have accused the Trump camp of cozying up to Russia.

The Russian government is Rosneft’s largest shareholder, and Putin attended the Exxon signing ceremony. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship.

Exxon was hit hard by a round of U.S. and European Union sanctions that targeted Russia in 2014 for its intervention in Ukraine. Exxon said it could have lost up to $1 billion due to the sanctions, according to regulatory filings.

Before he was CEO, Tillerson served was the executive responsible for dealing with oil exploration and production in Russia. His close relationship with Russia is one of the reasons he was selected to succeed Raymond as CEO, according to Steven Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”