Feb 26, 2009

Rockefellers Press Exxon on Green Energy

Amid mounting concern about climate change and a federal push for renewable energy in the economic stimulus package, descendants of John D. Rockefeller are leading a new shareholder campaign demanding Exxon Mobil Corp. loosen its embrace of fossil fuels.

The descendants of the founder of Standard Oil -- forerunner of Exxon -- are backing a shareholder resolution for the second year asking Exxon to dive deeper into renewable energy. Last year, members of the publicity-shy family took the unusual step of supporting four shareholder resolutions at Exxon's annual meeting in May -- three related to climate change and renewable energy, and a fourth asking Exxon to change its corporate governance.

This year, the family will focus its support on a single resolution, said Neva Goodwin, a Boston academic and great-granddaughter of the Standard Oil founder. The resolution requires Exxon to investigate the potential impact of climate change and compare the outcome with a scenario in which Exxon becomes a leader in renewable energy. A similar resolution received 10.4% of shareholder votes last year, according to Exxon.

The Rockefellers are being joined by a number of institutional money managers pressing Exxon and other companies to anticipate risks and take advantage of opportunities created by climate change.

"The writing is clearly on the wall. The low-carbon global economy is coming and companies need to be ready," said Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres, a national coalition of activists, investors and others concerned with the environment.

Ms. Goodwin said Exxon is not doing enough to account for changing energy markets in its investment plans. The company is counting on energy demand from developing economies that might not materialize as those nations' economies are affected by climate change, she said.

Exxon spokesman Chris Welberry said Exxon is spending considerable sums on improving energy efficiency and developing breakthrough technologies in renewable energy. "We've got the same concerns as people everywhere, which is how to provide the world with all the energy it needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he said.

Write to Russell Gold at russell.gold@wsj.com

Wall St Journal online 2/18/09

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