I attended the ExxonMobil shareholder meeting this week down in Dallas as part of some reporting I am doing for my next book, due out in 2008. When the issue of global warming and climate change came up at the meeting, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson pulled what was a pretty hilarious Don Rumsfeld impression - even though he probably didn't even realize it.
You may recall that on 2/12/02, Rumsfeld was asked how he was so sure "Iraq has attempted to or is willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction?" In an answer that would become fodder for late night comedy jokes, he actually said:
"There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns -- the ones we don't know we don't know."
Well, 5 years later, here's what ExxonMobil's Tillerson said on 5/30/07 to the annual shareholders meeting when asked why the company has funded groups that deny global warming is a real problem in the face of scientific consensus that says it is:
"There's much we know and can agree on around the climate change issue, and there's much that we just don't believe we do know...and we want to have a debate about the things we know and understand, the things we know about that we don't understand very well, and the things we don't even know about around this very complex issue of climate science. So that is what will continue to be our position."
For total disclosure, I'll stress that in the space represented in Tillerson's quote above by an elipsis, there's about 30 seconds of him going on about the need to improve technology - but I splice them together because these were his direct quotes about what we supposedly "know" and "don't know" about climate change. It is positively Rumsfeldian. You can hear the Rumsfeld and Tillerson excerpts spliced together here on YouTube. The Tillerson excerpts are spliced together straight from my digital recorder.