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31Dec 2012

AP: Chevron's CEO says the customer is right. If it's oil they'll buy, it's oil we'll sell. Period.

AP: Chevron's CEO says the customer is right. If it's oil they'll buy, it's oil we'll sell. Period.

 The AP's John Fahey, in a longish interview with Chevron's CEO John Watson, tried a bunch of times to learn if the oil man harbors any compunctions about selling oodles of carbon footprint to anybody willing to pay for it. No dice.

   Mostly the two talked about supply and demand and the business prospects for oil extraction. But Fahey, according to this Q and A, did repeatedly probe the man in the suit about fossil fuels, climate change, and corporate responsibility - if not in exactly those words. Here are questions he asked the man one after the other : "Do Fossil fuel producers bear the responsibility for curbing greenhouse gas emissions?" , "How should society go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions?", "The US is a wealthy country, how should we reduce emissions?", "When it's time to address the carbon issue, how should we do it?"

    The answer in essence of this conversation, in every case, is that Chevron and the oil industry are contributing to perhaps the greatest expansion of wealth in world history. And wealth gives nations the latitude to act including to protect their environments. Fahey sums it up this way: "..Watson noices something important as he visits his company's operations around the globe. Governments everywhere find high energy prices much scarier than the threat of global warming."

    There is a lot of truth to that. But one supposes that gun runners and arms merchants find that terrorists - who after all deeply feel that what they are doing is the right thing - find a scarcity of weapons much scarier, along with the threat that whoever it is they are trying to kill as rapidly as possible won't be killed after all, than things staying as they are. Watson is, one must easily assume, no terrorist at all. But in his own,  fully legal sphere his logic has some parallels with the sociopathic rationalization of the exploding-vest crowd. The declaration that sales and willing customers are the trump cards in his company's business decisions is telling. Of course his description of corporate planning is correct, barring regulation to the contrary. One cannot blame this financial analyst and economist for stating the simple truth of how businesses compete to survive. Now, don't paint me as particularly pink. Only a little bit. Private markets and competitive enterprise are indispensable for a prosperous, innovative society. But to leave companies completely free is trouble.)




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