The remarks below were prepared for Exxon Corporation’s Chairman Lee Raymond during his European tour from July 11 to 26, 1996. Coming off a profitable year in 1995, with the same trends continuing into 1996, Raymond touted his company’s business model and strong financial results. Raymond outlined Exxon’s emphasis on productivity, expanded retail offerings, and future supply as reasons for success. Beyond the bottom line, Raymond acknowledged the importance of staying “focused” on external issues too. “One such issue,” he reported, “and probably the most important external issue, is the theory of ‘global climate change.'”
Reflecting views in a series of other speeches from the same time period, Raymond played up the scientific uncertainty of climate change while downplaying its potential consequences and questioning the rationale behind calls for action: “At this point, in spite of massive research programs and considerable debate, scientific evidence remains inconclusive as to whether human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, are affecting global climate. But the lack of scientific support has not prevented activists from politicizing the issue and seeking to stir up all kinds of fear. They do so in an effort to force wrenching changes in our lifestyles and in the economies of the [world] ….”
Despite Raymond’s awareness of the controversy surrounding fossil fuels, he made it clear that Exxon would continue to explore, produce, refine, and sell carbon-intensive products. With the second highest quarterly income in the company’s history and the highest total return of any other competitor, Exxon vied to stay on top, developing “about 2 billion oil-equivalent barrels of reserves for production” with another 12 billion barrels of reserves in the queue.
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