NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Shareholders Skeptical About Global Warming

May 29, 2003

At Exxon Mobil's annual shareholder meeting, the Dallas Morning News reports, several dozen pro-company marchers on one side of the building entrance outnumbered environmental protesters on the other side. Tuesday morning, 36 protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace stormed the company's headquarters.

Unlike some major competitors, Exxon Mobil has maintained its challenge of scientific claims on global warming and the viability of renewable energy technologies. [For some reservations about climate change and renewable energy, see a new NCPA brief analysis]

  • The world's largest publicly traded energy company focuses on oil and natural gas because wind and solar power are unlikely to exceed 1 percent of the world's energy supply by 2020, chairman and chief executive Lee R. Raymond said.
  • "We won't jump on the bandwagon just because others may have a different view," he said. "And we don't invest to make social statements at the expense of shareholder returns."

Shareholder global warming resolutions have been "spurred on by a coalition of environmental and religious groups," says the News:

  • The Investor Responsibility Research Center says that among electric utilities and oil and gas companies, average support for climate change resolutions was 22.6 percent in 2003, including a low of 5.2 percent at Citigroup.
  • The most successful so far was a global warming resolution earlier this year at ChevronTexaco, garnering 32 percent compared to 9.6 percent in 2001.
  • The most heavily pushed Exxon-Mobil resolution -- receiving 22 percent of the 5.5 billion shares cast -- called on the company to prepare a more detailed report about how it plans to address financial risks from climate change.
  • A resolution calling for a report on renewable energy received a 21 percent vote, up from 20.2 percent last year and 8 percent the year before.

Shareholder resolutions at public companies rarely garner a majority of votes.

Sources: Katharine Q. Seelye, "Environmental Groups Gain as Companies Vote on Issues," New York Times, May 29, 2003; Sudeep Reddy, "Exxon Mobil holds support: Shareholders vote down resolutions during annual meeting," Dallas Morning News, May 29, 2003.


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