Under fire, Exxon Mobil touts ecological record

New York, May 18 | Updated: May 19 2006, 05:49am hrs
Exxon Mobil Corp. in a report said it has cut its oil and other spills by 20% last year to the lowest level in its history, touting its environmental record, as it works to shake off its corporate villain image.

In a lengthy report released on Thursday, detailing the companys efforts to support the environment and the communities it operates in, Exxon said it spent more than $3 billion last year on expenses related to the environment. About half of that was in the area of air quality, the report said.

The worlds largest public company also defended its stance on global warming in the report, saying it is responding to the issue by improving energy efficiency and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Exxon Mobil has been the favourite whipping boy among environmentalists and consumer activists ever since the Valdez oil spill in Alaska 17 years ago that left a trail of oil-drenched birds and a ruined coastline. Exxon said in the report its marine affiliates had the lowest ever number of incidents releasing oil into the water with only one minor oil slick by a vessel operated by an affiliate and one by a leased vessel. Both incidents released less than 1 barrel of oil into the water.

Spills at its non-marine operations also touched their lowest level despite the spills associated with the hurricanes in the US Gulf coast last year.

The company continues to face a barrage of criticism for questioning the science behind global warming and choosing not to invest in cleaner energy sources such as wind and solar. The report said it was committed to improving energy efficiency by 10% by 2012 and was working on reducing flaring at its operations as well as curbing other emissions into the air.

Its record $36 billion in profits last year as gasoline prices topped $3 a gallon have also prompted a fresh consumer backlash in the US. For many years, Exxons former CEO Lee Raymond, in particular, attracted sharp criticism for his dismissal of alternative energy resources and little sympathy for global warming concerns. But the company has tried to play up a more understanding and consumer-friendly image since new CEO, Rex Tillerson, took over the reins this year.

Mr Tillerson in the past said his stance on global warming was not any different from that of his predecessor, but acknowledged that the company had done a poor job of articulating its work on the issue.

The Texas oilman recently even appeared on a popular American morning-show to address concerns over rising gasoline prices.