Editorial: Energy producers living for today

Whether it is concerns over global warming or dwindling fossil fuels, mankind has for some time known deep down that something about how we produce and use energy needs to change.

Two very big hurdles stand in the way of change, though. The first is our general unwillingness to cut back on consumption or pay more for renewable energy sources. The second is the enormous profits in the fossil fuel industry.

The prime example of this gluttonous, short-sighted approach to our future is Exxon Mobil Corp. The company is an impressive example of business success, but it fails the test of truly seeing beyond today’s profits.

It was announced early this week the company topped the Fortune list of the world’s most profitable businesses with an annual profit of $44.9 billion. Exxon Mobil generated $449 billion in total revenues last year. With all those profits, you might think Exxon Mobil could afford to look to the future a little bit, but apparently it can’t see beyond the money grab going on today.
In May, CEO Rex Tillerson asked shareholders a very disturbing question, “What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?”

The rhetorical question was his response to a call for goals to reduce emissions from environmental groups. The shareholders sided with Tillerson and chose to reject the idea.

When Tillerson refers to humanity suffering, what he really means is business. His concern is the bottom line at Exxon Mobil, not the world in 50 years. It sounds much better to talk about humanity, but the question would probably be more appropriate had he asked, “What good is it to save the planet if business suffers?”

Helping the planet and continuing to develop alternative energy sources is about helping humanity tomorrow. If Tillerson and his company don’t see that and can’t realize there is such a thing as “enough profits,” then we will forever be in this cycle of living for the dollar today.

Investment companies like AIG did it, pushing so hard for more profits that it crippled our economy. Our government does it as it continues to ignore the troubles of Social Security and Medicare, even with a fatal end in sight.

Until we all get past the need for instant gratification, we are going to continue to live dangerously, always tempting disaster to strike as we push too hard to have it all today.