Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
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The two companies probably compete for that distinction today. Oh, yes, it has changed. You probably also knew that ExxonMobil is the direct descendent of the Standard Oil trust assembled in the 19th Century by the quintessential robber baron, John D. Breakthrough batteries might be the pathway, or breakthrough biofuels, or cheaper, more efficient solar technology, or some combination of those technologies, or perhaps something unimagined in the present.
Not anytime soon, however. However, what both authors underplay is that the large new deposits of oil and natural gas the companies are adding to their reserves, seemingly by the day, tend to require more expensive and environmentally more damaging methods of extraction.
Unfortunately, there seems little likelihood of that.
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The book is structured chronologically, focusing on the period from t0 In fact, he details the sometimes fractious relationship the company had even with the oil-friendly Administration of George W. In fact, the book will probably be read by some as an apologia for ExxonMobil. From www.
Sep 07, Hardy rated it liked it. As you might imagine, with oil being such a strategic commodity, large oil companies work closely with the federal government. In countries such as Brazil and Mexico, there is a national oil company run by politicians. In the United States, it seems like there is a national government run by private oil companies. If you already assume the worst, then nothing in this book will surprise you. Feb 10, John rated it really liked it. I gained a greater level of insight into the multinational workings of the oil industry.
We start out with the Exxon Valdez disaster and end with the Deepwater Horizon well cap blowout. The later is a BP problem and not Exxon In between; its business in failing states, terrorists, torture and benign neglect in Ache, Washington lobbing, and trying repair popular opinion. A very interesting book. I like Steve Coll a lot. Petro chemicals are going to be with us for a long time. With or without gl I gained a greater level of insight into the multinational workings of the oil industry.
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With or without global warming. Jun 12, Michele Weiner rated it really liked it. Some parts of this very detailed look at the world according to ExxonMobile are riveting - The Exxon Valdez disaster opens the book and draws one into the Big Oil story immediately. After a too-brief recounting of the reaction of Exxon to this high-profile spill, there is a too-brief "How we got here" segment which goes as far back as the breaking up of the mammoth Standard Oil into baby companies, of which ExxonMobile is one, formerly known as Esso, which is short for Standard Oil of New Jersey Some parts of this very detailed look at the world according to ExxonMobile are riveting - The Exxon Valdez disaster opens the book and draws one into the Big Oil story immediately.
After a too-brief recounting of the reaction of Exxon to this high-profile spill, there is a too-brief "How we got here" segment which goes as far back as the breaking up of the mammoth Standard Oil into baby companies, of which ExxonMobile is one, formerly known as Esso, which is short for Standard Oil of New Jersey. Exxon recruits mainly from southern and midwestern universities, and mainly engineers or scientists.
The corporate atmosphere is very regimented and homogeneous, almost cult-like or Amway in its boosterism and insularity. Exxon doesn't advertise like it used to and it doesn't really lobby like other people do. It just sends straight-as-an-arrow, arrogant engineers with Power Point presentations to educate the rubes about oil. Exxon believes, or did for years, that nobody not in the oil business understood the "global oil market," by which they appeared to mean that they might be bad, but if they were prohibited from some bad actions by US law, other companies from countries without scruples would just step in and buy the oil anyway.
In other words, you need us more than we need you, suckers. They took it through the courts till all the original parties were dead, and believe that's just business played the hard way. When some public interest groups tried to do in-depth research to see if there was still oil in the sound and how it affected wildlife, ExxonMobil followed them and hounded them with FOIA requests until some quit in disgust.
That didn't stop them from proving that the oil is still there and messing up the ecosystem. Exxon suborned scientists to find that global warming didn't exist for fifteen or twenty years until the overwhelming evidence and a change at the top Raymond retired unwillingly , enabled them to slowly alter their position. The fact that the oil is at present almost always found in places that are violent makes Exxon's job more difficult.
Underdeveloped societies in which oil is discovered become corrupt and warped, the general population usually loses ground while a ruling group overindulges in aircraft, jewelry and weapons. Such a society for example, Equatorial Guinea becomes a target for overthrow from within and without. In Indonesia, Africa and Nigeria, Exxon is forced to work with emerging regimes of various degrees of bloodthirstiness, and to expose workers to threats of violence.
Sometimes, the guards hired to protect the Exxon property and operations indulge in human rights violations commensurate with that particular country's tolerance for torture and death. Bodies were buried all over the Indonesian operation, for example, and ExxonMobil is being sued, though once again plaintiffs are dying off waiting for justice. The book discusses the dealings in Venezuela, and ExxonMobile's recent reemphasis on Canadian and American sources of oil sands and natural gas trapped in shale.
Despite the need to work with tinpot despots to make money, Exxon doesn't like to depend on the US government in negotiations, unless they have to. Then a well-placed word to the right person, often Dick Cheney, achieves the goal. They continue to buy Republican Congressmen, but are now also stumbling around trying to find some Democratic friends. They oppose cap and trade, for example, preferring a known carbon tax.
They are beginning to understand a bit about public relations and how to talk to people nicely and not lecture them. While I don't think I would call this book an apology for the oil business, I would say that Coll definitely underplays the corruption and immorality of ExxonMobil's laser focus on profits and lack of consideration for others who share the planet.
This is an ugly group of people who think they are on God's side but who actually appear to worship Capitalism as practiced in the Gilded Age. I hope we can break them up again soon. Jan 10, Caro rated it really liked it. I picked this up to understand Rex Tillerson's background and learned a whole lot more, especially about big oil, about which I knew very little.
So who calls the shots? It will be interesting, shall we say, to see how Tillerson, I picked this up to understand Rex Tillerson's background and learned a whole lot more, especially about big oil, about which I knew very little. Not only did Exxon come off as less evil than commonly portrayed, but the oil company seemed to be significantly less powerful than I had anticipated.
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Two-time Pulitzer-Prize winner Steve Coll wants to convince us that America didn't invade Iraq to steal its oil and that ExxonMobil played no role in the decision to invade. And I've gotta say, I'm pretty convinced. Coll clearly delineates the boundaries between ExxonMobil's profit-focused, engineering-driven enterprise and the messy, internally-conflicted, and constantly shifting world of official US geopolitics.
Exxon's stated policy was that "ExxonMobil did not want anything from the American government, but it did not want the government to do anything to the company, either. If Exxon were actually running some shadowy power cabal to use the US military to secure access to oil, how could something like this possibly be true: The U. But at the same time, Coll claims that, "There were many favors, executive orders, lobbying meetings, and laws ExxonMobil sought and obtained from the American government.
The most hardball lobbying I saw was about preventing a precautionary nationwide phthalate ban pushed by alarmist environmental groups see Deutsch's "The Beginning of Infinity" for a strong indictment of the precautionary principle And Coll documents plenty of other cases where Exxon paid out billions in government-mandated fines. My overall impression of Exxon is that it is an enormous company that manages a hugely complex global operation and uses lots of solid, boring physical and process engineering to ensure that gargantuan profits continue to flow with relatively few major screw-ups.
The scale of the operation doesn't hurt either. As Rex Tillerson said: Everything we do, the numbers are very large. But this scale is a double-edged sword.
Rex Tillerson, from a Corporate Oil Sovereign to the State Department
Coll shows us how Exxon's recent history has been increasingly characterized by anxiety about replenishing its reserves. This has forced Exxon into large mergers Mobil for overseas oil and XTO for domestic shale and into increasingly dicey projects in developing countries. From Venezuela and Nigeria to Indonesia and Equatorial Guinea, Coll takes us on a global tour of Exxon's quest to acquire and exploit oil reserves.
It's messy. Coll talks about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and how Exxon walks a fine line to gain access to oil while respecting international norms. The notorious French Elf Affair also mentioned in "The Looting Machine" comes up, as does a lot of the offshore money dynamics detailed in "Treasure Islands".
Overall, Exxon comes off looking pretty clean - at least relative to other major international oil companies. The one thing that still doesn't sit quite right with me though is Exxon's domestic political influence. Coll claims it's there, and it seems like it should be. But the numbers cited just don't add up.
So either buying US politicians is super cheap or there's something missing here. May 03, Mark rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , business , new-books. In Private Empire, Steve Coll examines the structure, motivation, activities, and impact of the combined oil giant, ExxonMobil, since the creation of the company by merger in Coll investigates every aspect of the company, including its internal operational process, dealings with foreign governments, manipulation of environmental "science", and the company responses to accidents, starting with the Exxon Valdez.
The book is vast and comprehensive, and packed with details and careful analysis In Private Empire, Steve Coll examines the structure, motivation, activities, and impact of the combined oil giant, ExxonMobil, since the creation of the company by merger in The book is vast and comprehensive, and packed with details and careful analysis. The book is vast, definitive, and some very complicated issues. Key takeaways for me were: 1. In order to maintain profitability and stock price, every single barrel of oil processed in a given year must be replaced by another. The imperative is the single most important factor driving the relationships into which ExxonMobil enters globally.
S was developed post-Exxon Valdez to insure that the company never again suffered such a disaster. Comprehensive in scope, "O. The system also addressed human frailty in the workplace.