Exxon Mobil CEO: Climate Policy Would be Prudent
Author: Michael Erman
"The risks to society and ecosystems from climate change could prove to be significant," Tillerson said.
"It is prudent to develop and implement sensible strategies that address these risks while not reducing our ability to progress other global priorities, such as economic development, poverty eradication and public health," he said.
The comments come after Exxon Mobil, a long-time foe of limits on greenhouse emissions, began engaging in talks with about 20 other companies on ways the United States could regulate heat-trapping gases.
Speaking at a conference sponsored by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Tillerson said climate change is a global problem and policy should lend itself to global participation, including from the Asia Pacific region, where rapid economic growth could boost emissions.
He also said that the most effective policy approaches would maximize the use of markets. Europe uses a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in which government sets an emissions limit and companies buy and sell the right to pollute against that limit.
Tillerson said that regional approaches to the problem are "not likely to make much of a difference." And he added he believes that there is still much uncertainty about climate.
"Everyone recognizes that no one can conclusively say 100 percent what's going on," he said. "Whatever we do needs to have the flexibility to accommodate the fact that this is going to continue to evolve ... It will not turn out the way any of us expect it to turn out."
A United Nations panel of scientists said this month that mankind is to blame for global warming, and predicted droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels even if greenhouse gas emissions are capped.
Since Democrats won control of Congress in November, heavy industries have been nervously watching which route the United States may take on future regulations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.
Exxon in 2006 stopped funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a nonprofit advocating limited government regulation, and other groups that have downplayed the risks of greenhouse emissions. Last year, CEI ran advertisements, featuring a little girl playing with a dandelion that downplayed the risks of carbon dioxide emissions.
Tillerson also said policymakers should remain realistic about the limited role biofuels can play in the wider energy market, saying it will be difficult to increase the amount of biofuel produced absent a technological advance.
"I'm no expert on biofuels. I don't know much about farming and I don't know much about moonshine," he said. "There is really nothing (Exxon) can bring to that whole (biofuels) issue. We don't see a direct role for ourselves with today's technology," he said.
(Additional reporting by Anna Driver and Eileen O'Grady)