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Rawl Deal

Lessons from Exxon’s handling of climate change.

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Lawrence G. Rawl, remember that name. As the world’s sea levels rise and some parts of the Earth become deserts while others are inundated with rain due to climate change, remember Rawl as the man who put profit ahead of global prosperity. He had an opportunity to become a leader on climate change but instead led a corporation that new reports say turned its back on its own research and financed climate change denial propaganda.

Rawl, former CEO and chairman of Exxon, is dead now, so there is not much use in shaming him. But his legacy of arrogance, greed and perfidy likely will impact the lives of our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Rawl ticked me off so badly one day in 1989 that I have not purchased gasoline from Exxon for a quarter century. I’m not a big believer in boycotts of national and international companies. They simply don’t work. At the same time, I’m not going to reward a company with my business when its leadership demonstrates corporate irresponsibility.

At the time, the biggest national news was the wreck of the tanker Exxon Valdez and the millions of gallons of crude oil spilled into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. The sight of sea life and birds covered in oil was terrible; yet, as a consumer of petroleum products I was not so naïve as to believe we can have gasoline for our cars without some risk of accidents. I just expect people who have accidents to take responsibility for them.

Not Lawrence G. Rawl.

Exxon at first blamed the disaster on Exxon Shipping Co. Then the blame was shifted to the ship’s captain. Then Rawl started blaming the Coast Guard and the state of Alaska for not doing enough to halt the spread of oil from the accident site. As the public relations disaster grew for Exxon, Rawl decided to hold a live news conference. When asked how the company planned to clean up the oil, he responded, “It is not the role of the chairman of a large worldwide corporation to read every technical plan.” When asked about the nearly 20,000 Americans cutting up or sending back their gasoline credit cards, Rawl blamed the news media, “The reason we’ve got this public relations disaster is because of the media’s reporting of the situation.” When asked how the Exxon spill compared to the Union Carbide disaster in India that killed 3,000 people, Rawl smugly replied, “nobody dead.”

The governor of Alaska, Steve Cowper, accused Exxon of “a systematic and deliberate cover-up.” Two years later, Exxon agreed to pay $900 million to settle civil lawsuits, plead guilty to four environmental crimes and pay a $100 million fine. Rawl’s response? “The settlement will have no noticeable effect on our financial results.”

Rawl’s poor handling of the Exxon Valdez disaster is a classic case of bad public relations and appears in college textbooks across the nation. Now we are learning that Rawl may have been even worse when it came to putting profits ahead of the environment.

Last week, the Dallas Morning News on its front page ran a story by Inside Climate News on how Exxon’s own scientists as early as 1977 identified climate change due to fossil fuels as a potential threat to humanity. An Exxon scientist told corporate leaders in 1978 that “man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

At first, Exxon embraced the science and tried to become a leader in climate change research. But then in the mid-1980s, a dramatic change took place, and the company started financing a public relations campaign denying climate change and fighting any federal regulations or laws that might restrict carbon emissions. Not only that, but the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that Exxon started looking at climate change as a positive: a warming Artic would reduce exploration and development costs.

Though Rawl isn’t named in either report, this shift in Exxon’s approach to climate change occurred about the time he took the helm of Exxon. Under Rawl, Exxon apologized for the Valdez oil spill but refused to take responsibility until the legal settlement. And even in announcing the settlement, Rawl seemed more concerned about its impact on shareholders than on the Alaskan environment or fishermen who lost their livelihoods.

Rawl retired in 1993, so Exxon has had plenty of time following his tenure to become a leader on climate change. But apparently the corporate culture remains the same. Just last year, ExxonMobil Corp. Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson joined a lawsuit to stop potential hydraulic fracturing exploration for oil and gas near his home in North Texas. As the Wall Street Journal said, fracking “is a core part of Exxon’s business.”

It’s not fair to blame one company for climate change, and the United States cannot affect change all by itself because China is a major contributor to carbon emissions. (And mea culpa, I’m not yet willing to give up my gas-guzzling pickup truck.) But perhaps it is time for Mr. Tillerson to learn a lesson from Lawrence G. Rawl and return to the Exxon research as a guide to doing public good rather than a path to profit and gain. Global climate change simply isn’t a not-in-my-back-yard issue.

Lawrence G. Rawl cost Exxon my business. Rex Tillerson has a chance to win it back.

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  • Rules of Blazon

    Rawl sounds the like the typical blame-everyone-but-myself, obnoxious, self-righteous Republican that (sadly) controls the entire state government of Texas at the moment. And Tillerson’s laughable NIMBY-ism is in line with that behavior.

    So you won’t be lifting your boycott of Exxon anytime soon. But you will momentarily be fielding a ton of comments from right-wing goofballs denying that climate change is real. Woo hoo!

  • PrattonTexas

    “Rawl ticked me off so badly one day in 1989 that I have not purchased gasoline from Exxon for a quarter century.” Oh boy.
    “It’s not fair to blame one company for climate change…” It’s not “fair” to blame anyone given that the climate has always been changing and at greatly varying degrees of change – for all of geologic history.

    • r.g. ratcliffe

      The climate does change naturally over time. But even the Exxon scientists in the late 1970s and early 1980s were promoting the idea that current global warming is being accelerated by human activity and that it is happening far more rapidly than natural change.

      • Unwound

        he knows this, of course, but his ideology prevents him from acknowledging it.

        • WUSRPH

          Now.. Now…As JBB and JJ have told us frequently, man-influenced climate change is a fraud. The fact that temperatures and gases in the atmosphere have risen much faster in the last century than in at any other time is just a coincidence….Pay no attention to those ice core samples from Greenland that say otherwise or any other evidence…..It might cost us a buck. Our great grandchildren (if any) will curse us for our failures to do anything……but we can worry about that tomorrow for, after all, tomorrow is another day.

          • John Johnson

            Well, it looks like you just can’t help yourself. How weak. No other place to go? You and Lilly can’t get the new blog off the ground? Why don’t you just apologize to the TM management for all the nasty things you said, and crawl back over here and take up where you left off? You know you’re dying to. Swallow what little pride is left after throwing your hissy fit and start hitting those keys.

          • WUSRPH

            I said I would drop by on occasion to see if there is anything worth reading. This was one of those occasions…They will become rarer and rater as I continue to take up other things….Never had any thought of another blog. It is too difficult to come up with something interesting on a daily basis. You certainly have complained about that problem enough in the past to recognize it.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Lilly and Mr. W. haven’t got a “new blog.”

            Feeling especially pompous this morning?

          • John Johnson

            your speed reading is not working. i never said they did. read again.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Lalala. Sure you did.

          • John Johnson

            Damn, Pearl. I said they could not get one off the ground. That being the case, they would not have one, would they? It sure seems like explaining these mundane things takes up a lot of time and space and effort. Let’s don’t do it anymore.

          • Indiana Pearl


          • Gunslinger

            It’s a shame that of all issues this is one they decided to make into a wedge issue. It’s cynical and awful, but yet a brilliant choice on conservatives’ part. They sided with the money. In the short term, they’ll win. But in the long term, we’ll all lose.

          • dave in texas

            I dunno. Because we live in Texas, the home office of wingnuttery and its attendant ridiculous political positions, it’s sometimes hard for us to realize that there is in fact a majority of people in this country who recognize the absolute necessity of dealing with the serious issue of climate change. The Keystone pipeline is looking more and more like a non-starter. People are starting to see the effects of climate change become more obvious, i.e., longer and more severe droughts, just more severe weather in general, the melting polar ice caps, etc. Also, let’s not forget, so-called conservatives (they’re really radicals and nihilists) in the US are practically the only group of people left in the world who refuse to acknowledge the reality of climate change; even they and their media shills can’t keep up the charade forever.

          • Indiana Pearl

            The Kochs want the the American taxpayer to pay.

        • wessexmom

          No, his bottom line prevented him from acknowledging it. He couldn’t have cared less about “ideology”!

  • Beerman

    Executives, like Rawls, from the energy industry just rip all the natural resources they can from our earth, fill their pockets with immense wealth, and move on.

    What is wrong with efforts from our government to force producers of oil and natural gas to pay through taxes enough to improve the living conditions of the people of the country from whose earth they are mining such immense wealth?


    As usual you did not read the post. You are getting more and more like JBB in making things up to match the way you would like it have been or to be…..I thought higher of you than that…but …

    • Thats it we’re not friends anymore…

      • Indiana Pearl

        You’ll never get invited to Ted Cruz’s birthday party, no matter how many looney tunes posts you make at BB.

  • wessexmom

    What specific “historical data” are you referring to? I would really like to know.
    Last year Showtime aired a great in-depth series on the topic called YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY and the first episode features the highly respected, renowned and plain-speaking Texas Tech climate scientist KATHARINE HAYHOE. It’s worth watching.
    Here’s the link: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/science-advisor/katharine-hayhoe-ph-d/

    • John Johnson

      Thanks, I’ll take a look. My reference to historical data is just pieces I’ve read over the years that formed my opinions. These basically stated that we have had all these phenomena before. You then throw in the skewed figures published by an environmental group several years back that came to light, the recent Rolling Stone article on the Koch’s paying to have favorable studies produced and distributed, and then this revelation on Exxon, and I, quite frankly, don’t know who to believe. Al Gore is one of my least favorite people. I think he is a shyster and hypocrite of the highest order, so I figure any position he takes is all about the money; then again, I know that there is truly nothing altruistic about Big Business. They, too, are all about the dollar and whatever it takes to please Wall Street. Anything they do which seems to be charitable is just part of their advertising campaign to build a better name for themselves, and a write off. There are few corporations that deserve or get my respect any longer. I have become cynical, and, while I don’t like it much, I feel that my progression to this position is warranted and natural.

      • JJ here’s a flash. Companies are in business to make a profit.
        The left’s goal is to take those profits and somehow not get their hands dirty.

        • Indiana Pearl

          Capitalism has no ethical basis. Its only function is to make money for its investors . . . while killing anyone who gets in the way.

          • An educated person would know this…

            “Capitalism is the only moral political system because it is the only system dedicated to the protection of rights, which is a requirement for human survival and flourishing. This is the only proper role of a government. Capitalism should be defended vigorously on a moral basis, not an economic or utilitarian basis.”


          • John Johnson

            I agree, in part, JBB…but in a capitalistic society there should be no safety nets, no subsidies, no bankruptcy protection, no “too big to fail”. Since the Big’s want it both ways, and pay to make it so, the peons have to make sure there is oversight and laws in place to protect their best interests, and this is the Fed’s responsibility. Regulators are not doing their job, nor is the AG. The playing field is terribly un level. That’s my take.

          • Beerman

            JJ, it is sad that one of today’s basic assumptions of capitalism is that anyone paid huge sums of money must be worth it?

            History shows that losers of rigged games can become very angry, and I believe that a political backlash to this greed will be very angry, or worse. Hopefully, common sense will eventually prevail and level the field to the prosperity enjoyed in our economy after WW II, and into the late 70’s, when middle-class workers earned enough money to buy what they produced. The past 30 years, or so, have not been very good for the middle-class and the natives are restless.

          • John Johnson

            Right on the mark, B-man. At some point, the ignorant, trunk to tail, I’m a conservative Republican and believe everything I’m told crowd will wake up and catch on. Until then, the Big’s, and those they pay to spread propaganda and those they control with campaign gifts, will have their way with the ignorant masses.

          • Beerman

            JJ, what is really interesting and eye-opening to me is that the working middle-class voters that have been the most damaged by corporate America, and their campaign gifts, have joined the Tea Party movement (led by politicians like Cruz/Patrick) that is demanding tax cuts for the wealthy, the continued under-regulation of corporations such as oil companies and investment banks. The working middle-class is getting screwed and they are falling in love with supporting the greedy political crooks that are screwing them. It blows my mind!

          • John Johnson

            You must be talking about Tarrant County where I am. You nailed it. The dumb sheep have no clue. They get them fired up over abortion, red light cameras and open carry while they, along with the rest of us, are getting fleeced from every conceivable direction.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Booksie panders to the Kochs, yet you never challenge his lunacy. Tighten up!

          • John Johnson

            Have you noticed that we often disagree more often than not? That when we do, we don’t make angry, crass responses? That some pointed, humorous kidding is tolerated without taking everything south? Show some respect, tolerate some exaggerated statements, and roll with the flow. This attitude keeps things from turning adversarial…IMHO.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Challenge corruption!

          • John Johnson


          • When are you gonna get it JJ she ain’t right in the haid….

        • John Johnson

          Oh, I know, JBB. Some want to view some of them as “compassionate givers” which is ridiculous. Knowing that it is all about the money, and knowing that they will cut corners, lie, cheat and steal to get the money, is the reason they have to be closely watched and regulated. This effort has been terribly lacking for years now, and it is because they are using some of their money to have legislators and regulators look the other way. You see…it is all about the dollar to them, too.

        • WUSRPH

          The man who wrongly holds that every human right is
          secondary to his profit must now give way to the advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general
          right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.”

          Theodore Roosevelt

          • Beerman

            “When we begin to put justness on par with profits, we get the most valuable thing in the world. We get back our humanity.”
            –Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones

          • ahhh Teddy the progressive who thought you could only do things with other people’s money and big government.

            It is ez to see why you admire him:

            “TR reinterpreted the Constitution to permit a vast expansion of executive power. “Congress, he felt, must obey the president,” noted biographer Henry Pringle. Roosevelt wanted the Supreme Court to obey him too. TR ushered in the practice of ruling by executive order, bypassing the congressional process. From Lincoln to TR’s predecessor William McKinley, there were 158 executive orders. TR, during his seven years in office, issued 1,007. He ranks third, behind fellow “progressives” Woodrow Wilson (1,791) and Franklin Roosevelt (3,723) in that category.”


            comparatively speaking Prez Obama is a slackard he has only issued 203 executive orders.

            Prez Reagan issued 7 exec orders.

          • John Johnson

            It’s was Teddy having to react to out of control Robber Barons who were monopolizing. Needs doing again.

          • Indiana Pearl

            These folks need to read “Leviathan.” Of course, they never will.

  • JJ all you have to do is beg for him to come back….

    • John Johnson

      We’ll that ain’t going to happen. I have no respect for whiner’s and quitters.

  • The difference between dirty energy and clean energy?

    “President Obama exaggerated when defending his administration’s approval of a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, a now-defunct solar company.”


    clean energy means they “got away clean with your money.” If there was a market for clean energy it would thrive.

    Yawl keep falling for the democrats shell game. There’s a term for that….Rubes.

    “Ethanol increases global warming, destroys forests and inflates food prices. So why are we subsidizing it?”


    “It’s a tried-and-true way to make money off costly, inferior products: Get the government to force the public to buy them.”
    Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/227776/renewable-energy-scam-daren-bakst

    “There’s also a worldwide rebellion brewing against being forced to purchase expensive electricity produced by so-called “renewable” sources, now being exacerbated by the availability of very cheap natural gas from shale formations.”


    Heres the deal Rubes…you have the right to pay more for energy scams. You do not have the right to force me to pay more because you’re stupid.

    • John Johnson

      One of your better posts. It’s a keeper.

      • Now that we’re in charge I’m making an effort to educate the pedants.

        • John Johnson

          Hahaha…you stand alone as someone who thinks we’re in charge. We do happen to agree on occasion and certainly on the Professor’s self-centered, foolish antics.

          • But the professor said we were joined at the hip, ruining his blog……

          • John Johnson

            That was just more of his muddled thinking. Anyone who didn’t buy all he was selling was lumped into one group… The Infidels. Jed called him an idiot. Jed is running it with us, too.

          • Yes Jed is the gofer….fetch me a coffee Jed whilst I conjure up another writing.

          • Indiana Pearl

            You mean – cut and paste from right-wing rags that are the work of others.

          • I admire your rage, your constant hatred, it is a laser like focus, almost like Prez Obama’s laser like focus on jobs….

          • Indiana Pearl

            Have another vodka martini.

          • John Johnson

            Haven’t had a drink since my trip to Chicago. Don’t need it for a crutch, motivation or medication.

          • Indiana Pearl


        • Indiana Pearl

          You will never be “in charge here.” You’re not even in charge of yourself!

    • Indiana Pearl

      Is Charles Koch paying you to use up all the bandwidth on BB?

  • Indiana Pearl
    • “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder by the year 2000,” claimed ecology professor Kenneth E.F. Watt at the University of California in 1970. “This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.” Of course, 2000 came and went, and the world did not get 11 degrees colder. No ice age arrived, either.”


      “In 1971, another global-cooling alarmist, Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich, who is perhaps best known for his 1968 book The Population Bomb, made similarly wild forecasts for the end of the millennium in a speech at the British Institute for Biology. “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people,” he claimed. “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000”


      “The 2005 UNEP predictions claimed that, by 2010, some 50 million “climate refugees” would be frantically fleeing from those regions of the globe.”


      • Indiana Pearl

        Sources, please, crazy guy?

        • I have the time or inclination to educate you.
          Besides I don’t think you know how to open a link.
          Here’s your homework, learn to google.

          • Indiana Pearl

            No body home, as usual.

      • BCinBCS

        My God how I hate to do this but since WUSRPH is no longer around to correct JBB’s parroting of incorrect Ted Cruz statements, I guess I’ll have to do it.

        JBB quotes statements made by scientists in the 1970’s in an attempt to show that they have been wrong about anthropomorphic climate change (that’s climate change caused by human activity, JBB). What he fails to realize, since he is simply repeating talking points adopted by conservative Republicans, is that scientists of that day were just beginning to study the problem and despite the fact that most believed that global warming would occur, they had two competing hypotheses to test.

        One hypothesis was that the world would cool due to the release of large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a gas that causes global cooling because it blocks sunlight. The other was that the world would warm due to the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas that causes global warming because it traps the heat of sunlight. Scientist, at that time, did not know for sure which would be the dominant factor.

        Since SO2 also has the additional polluting characteristic of forming acid rain, governments, through Clean Air Acts, imposed regulations (opposed by Cruz) successfully limiting its release. So, global cooling never had a chance to occur.

        Unfortunately, CO2 is still around and it still causes global warming and conservative politicians are still opposed to its regulation and people like Ted Cruz and his puppet JBB are still cherry picking only certain facts.

        BTW, WUSRPH, would you please contact me at my “throw away” e-mail address: bruceomniwinatgmail.com? (you, of course, know to replace “at” with an ampersand) I believe that we went to school together at BHS and I’d like to communicate directly with you.

        • Well which is it? Are we in the middle of an ice age or is the earth on fire?
          Don’t you gloom and doomers ever get tired of being wrong?

          • BCinBCS

            Wow JBB, just wow.

            Is your reading comprehension so poor that you don’t know which pollutant is causing us problems? Even if you didn’t understand what I wrote don’t you think that you should have done a little bit of research before coming to your conclusion?

            You ask if we get tired of being wrong. I find that question amazing coming from someone who bases his opinions on so little information derived from such an unreliable source.

          • Which is it….Are we in the middle of an ice age or is the earth on fire?

          • enp1955

            Neither. But the ocean is warming surprisingly quickly, with 2014 being the warmest on record both on land and sea. And the ocean levels rose again in 2014.

            The line that I heard that I like the best is that it doesn’t matter whether or not you believe in global warming. Mother nature and your insurance agent both believe, and they are the ones in control.

  • donuthin2

    You sure have to wade through a lot of crap to see any post worth reading.

    • John Johnson

      Yeah, you just added to the pile.

  • Indiana Pearl

    No. He said JJB’s insult to veterans was unacceptable.

    • John Johnson

      And that was a false narrative. He wanted TM to boot JBB and drew one of those him or me lines in the dirt. TM didn’t budge. He gambled and lost.

      • Indiana Pearl

        He determines his own truth, not you. He asked JBB to apologize. He refused because he is weak. TM allowed his insult to go unaddressed.

        • John Johnson

          That might be the way it works in your mind. I find his actions and your
          comments on the subject hilarious. I would just as soon he stick to his original
          declaration, and move on. Based on his inability to top JBB in the “who can
          throw the toughest jab” category, and his inability to get JBB out of his head,
          I think it would be better for his health. His history lessons were informative,
          but his whining grew old.

    • when did I insult veterans?

      • Indiana Pearl

        Senile dementia . . . and deep fried Twinkies. Mr. W. knows.

  • Speaking of raw deals instead of new deals, 51% of Americans now make less than $30k a year?

    “Fifty-one percent of working Americans make less than $30,000 a year, new data from the Social Security Administration (SSA) shows.”


    How is this dem president working out for you guys?

    • enp1955

      Not terribly surprising. It is a trend that began 30 years ago. We’ve been moving from a wage-based economy to an ownership-based economy for decades now. Manufacturing and service sectors have moved overseas and been automated to the maximum amount possible. It has little to do with politics, it is simply corporations working to maximize returns to stockholders. Robots and software do not take sick days, do not ask for overtime, and do not expect raises. G.W.B. pushed hard on these levers, as he wanted to move financials to the center of our economy. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out all that well. As a result, we have an economy that is 70% consumption, 30% production. As any economist will tell you, that tends to hollow out the middle – leaving owners of consumer businesses better off, and workers worse off. It is actually an interesting parallel to what happened in the late 1800’s in this country – increased wealth with wage decline – and could lead to the same backlash.

  • enp1955

    Corporations are designed and motivated to in-source revenues and out-source costs. Those costs are almost always picked up by the public. This is why capitalism always requires some level of regulation (I know, JBB, you believe that level should be close to zero).

    Many of our large corporations have figured out that the costs of lobbyists and public relations campaigns are less than the cost of cleaning up after themselves and/or treating the public fairly. Hence we have stories such as this.

    To those (JBB) that believe that less regulation will lead to lower costs, just remember that someone will always pay the costs that corporations out-source, and it is likely to be us taxpayers.

    • Over regulation(control) causes jobs. When progressives regulate they often look the other way for friends of their campaign coffers.
      Teddy Roosevelt was a prime example, he went after the big conglomerates or as my democrat friends like to say the robber barons, but he conveniently overlooked his friends at US Steal.
      When his hand picked successor Taft went after US Steal Teddy had a conniption fit started his own party and hijacked the election, just like Perot did and Trump is trying to do.

      • enp1955

        Thank you for keeping it civil. At the middle of this is a philosophical difference. Yes, government often does bad things, just as corporations do bad things. We can both cite plenty of examples. But I believe that both government and corporations have a role to play. Instead of “drowning it in a bathtub”, I believe that government can, and should, be made more efficient and effective. I’ve seen examples of good government – sometimes in this country, sometimes in others in my travels. I also believe that, left unfettered, corporations have little or no incentive to behave properly. They need a counterweight. And while Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” proposed the consumer as the only effective counterweight, globalization and the complexities of the modern marketplace prove otherwise. Without some regulatory oversight, would you have known whether or not you have a Takata airbag in your car, and whether or not that airbag would save you or kill you?

        Corporation or government agency – they need to be efficient, effective, and fair. And it is our job to hold them to those standards.

  • r.g. ratcliffe

    An update, Exxon officials have told the Houston Chronicle editorial board that climate change is real and humans are responsible: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/editorials/article/Standing-for-a-carbon-tax-6687610.php?t=e6f8b73deb438d9cbb&cmpid=fb-premium