Trump’s likely choice for Secretary of State is, to put it mildly, raising some eyebrows. Rex Tillerson is the current CEO of ExxonMobil, the oil company responsible for the Exxon-Valdez oil spill up in Alaska, and who has very strong business ties to Russia. What good can possibly come from making Tillerson our Secretary of State? That’s actually a very good question, since it turns out that this might have a silver lining to it.
We get it. ExxonMobil equals Big Oil, which equals more oil drilling in protected lands, which equals more fossil fuel usage instead of investment in renewables, which equals more environmental damage and regressed energy technology, and then equals unneeded and unnecessary tax subsidies to boot. As Secretary of State, Tillerson would handle a lot of foreign affairs and would likely steer them in such a way that they benefit him, or, at least, his industry, and this isn’t good for us or the world.
However, environmentalists, of all people, see a good thing coming out of this. Should Tillerson accept his nomination and get the Senate’s confirmation, he’ll have to testify before Congress on a variety of issues. Those issues include the many investigations into ExxonMobil, including at least two about whether the company lied to its investors and committed fraud in hiding climate change risks. That’s a breach of fiduciary duty right there. If nothing else, he might be forced to acknowledge the truth about climate change no matter what Donald Trump says about it. We need to know what ExxonMobil knew about climate change and when if we’re ever going to have a solid chance at combating this grave problem facing us and our planet.
Tillerson may also have to explain how his company values its future projects in the face of the realities of climate change and falling oil prices. ExxonMobil being forced to acknowledge man-made climate change could send huge waves throughout the entire fossil fuel industry, which could result in squashing the climate deniers. We badly need that.
That kind of questioning could help the investigations from both New York and Massachusetts immensely, too, considering the fact that they’re getting virtually nothing from ExxonMobil right now. ExxonMobil sank so low in an effort to defy these investigations that they actually filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts’ attorney general, Maura Healey. Their intent is to block the investigation.
Which makes us wonder just what they’re hiding, and what Congress could uncover if Tillerson is Secretary of State.
If Tillerson is confirmed, these investigations might intensify, rather than disappear as Tillerson (and Trump and Russia) might hope. Tillerson is a threat to our environment, but if nothing else, we might be able to actually learn what ExxonMobil is up to and figure out how to better handle it, and/or penalize them for it.
Featured image by Spencer Platt via Getty Images