On Monday, a few hours after a meeting with former ExxonMobil CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump released a statement, a series of tweets, and a video update applauding Exxon Mobil Corporation for new projects the oil company is pursuing in the Gulf Coast region. The statement, released by the White House Press Secretary’s office included an entire paragraph taken ver batim from Exxon’s parallel press release.
Everything about Monday’s press release applauding ExxonMobil by President Trump is troubling.
The “announcement” came from ExxonMobil to accompany a speech by Tillerson’s successor CEO Darren Woods on Monday to an oil industry conference. As one journalist put it, the push from Exxon follows a recent trend where companies “reannounce old deals…to get on the President’s good side.” In this case, ExxonMobil re-announced a deal that was put in place nearly four years ago.
Exxon claims to expect 12,000 new full-time jobs from these projects resulting from a $20 billion investment over ten years. That would amount to a 17 percent increase in their entire labor force from their currently reported 71,000 global employees and a 10 percent increase in capital spending.
These numbers sound impressive – and they might be, if the context were totally ignored.
The Washington Post quotes energy analyst Pavel Mochanov of Raymond James investment firm, who takes the air out of the announcement: “There is nothing new or newsworthy here. At the risk of stating the obvious, plenty of companies, across various industries, have been touting their U.S. job creation efforts in order to get on the Trump administration’s good side – even when the underlying job creation has little or nothing to do with Washington policy. This is simply the latest example of that.”
What’s more, Exxon’s projects are paid for in part by the American people. Recent Oil Change International analysis suggests that ExxonMobil could be raking in as much as $1 billion per year in taxpayer handouts. And Exxon’s jobs forecast? If it proves to be as (in)accurate as Exxon’s energy forecasts, or as inflated as previous job claims from others in the oil industry…well, don’t put too much faith in them.
One might understand Exxon’s desire for good press these days. Their stock is down 9% so far this year, just edging out Verizon to be the second-worst performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average grouping. They’re under investigation by multiple state Attorneys General for defrauding the public on climate change. They recently had to write off some 3.5 billion barrels worth of oil investment in the tar sands, for fear of SEC repercussions. Times are relatively tough for the massive oil company.
Coming on the heels of a $500,000 contribution to the Trump inauguration festivities, Exxon’s spoon feeding the Trump administration information about an existing set of investments appears to have paid off. In writing their own release to support Exxon’s case, the White House Press Secretary’s office essentially copied and pasted an entire paragraph from ExxonMobil’s press statement. An additional line attributed to Exxon CEO Darren Woods in Exxon’s statement was even used in the White House’s release – without attribution. The White House’s apparent plagiarism is eerily reminiscent of Trump EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s history of cozy dealings with the industry, including Pruitt being exposed for literally signing his name on a letter drafted for him by the oil industry.
White House press release plagiarizes paragraph from Exxon press release. pic.twitter.com/hHEKVWUsDn
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 6, 2017
But these political theatrics should not overshadow the reality of oil industry impacts in the Gulf Coast region. While President Trump celebrates refineries and petrochemical plants along the Gulf Coast, Gulf Coast residents are dealing with toxic air and water pollution causing increased cancer risk, asthma and other respiratory diseases, not to mention rising seas from the unregulated climate pollution they spew forth.
Trump’s celebration of Exxon’s business dealings comes while the President’s team works to dismantle environmental policies and institutions that were put in place to protect communities like those along the fencelines of refineries and manufacturing plants in the Gulf Coast and across our country. Monday’s statement by the Trump White House is the latest reprehensible action in a surprisingly long list given the short time they have been in office. It’s yet another indication of the urgent need for a separation of oil and state.