THE BLOG Staging an Intervention

07/18/2005 01:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One would expect ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, to be preoccupied with oil. Unlike some of its competitors, however, ExxonMobil seems to be an oil addict—working to drill to the last drop—and an oil pusher, eager to keep America hooked as well.

It’s easy to understand the high ExxonMobil gets from drilling for oil. ExxonMobil earned a record high $25.3 billion in net income in 2004. During the first quarter of 2005, ExxonMobil posted another record quarter with $7.86 billion in net income. But maintaining this high comes at a price.

Any mental health professional will tell you that addiction is almost always accompanied by “denial.” If someone tries to discuss the addict’s problem, he or she often simply refuses to talk about it or dismisses it and its consequences as not a real problem. In ExxonMobil’s case, the company is one of the only oil companies still denying that the burning of its products is having an effect on the climate—despite broad international scientific consensus to the contrary. CEO Lee Raymond stated recently that the company’s view is “it’s yet to be shown how much of [global warming] is really related to the activities of man.”

An addict develops a support system of family and friends who enable him or her to continue in denial, allowing the addiction to progress, the symptoms to intensify and the consequences to become worse for all concerned. For its part, ExxonMobil has spent millions developing that support system by funding organizations that either question mainstream scientific findings on global warming or have affiliated with a small group of climate “naysayers” who continue to do so. Moreover, ExxonMobil has worked intimately with the Bush administration to craft its global warming policies from the beginning—although it is difficult to judge who is enabling whom in this case.

At the same time, ExxonMobil has been acting as a pusher, working to keep oil as America’s drug of choice. In fact, the company’s president, Rex Tillerson, has said we “need to accept the reality” of America’s dependence on oil “rather than undertake expensive and risky steps trying to avoid it.” Tillerson’s solution is just to feed America’s oil addiction by drilling for oil in new locations, including places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rather than dramatically reducing our oil consumption by making cars and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gasoline.

ExxonMobil has the power to wreak significant damage on the world’s environment, but the company also has the power to direct the oil industry and American decision-makers toward a new energy future. That’s why 12 environmental and public interest groups joined together to form the Exxpose Exxon campaign ( to pressure the company to shed its past as an irresponsible oil company and move forward as a responsible energy company—one committed to more than drilling to the last drop.

Call it an intervention.