ExxonMobil CEO Defends High Profits

'No One Solution'

When asked about the fragility of the global market to geopolitical developments across the world, especially in oil-rich nations such as Saudi Arabia, Tillerson suggested that energy diversity provides security.

"I think the response to that is to have as many diverse supplies of energy as possible. And that means both in terms of geographic diversity. You want to expose yourself or certainly have access for the American people to as many different geographic sources of supply as possible. So the disruption in one area does not leave you ... hostage to any one area."

Last week, Obama called to "end the age of oil in our time," claiming that the United States could produce enough renewable energy to replace all U.S. imports of oil within 10 years.

But Tillerson said that "it's going to be very challenging to achieve that goal, in that period of time. And again, so much of the energy issue that the United States deals with and the world deals with, people I think do not have an appreciation for the lead times that are required."

As for John McCain's solution to "drill now, drill here," Tillerson said that instead we should focus on both efficiency and drilling.

"We can't drill our way out of this problem, just like we can't conserve our way out of this problem, just like we can't alternative fuels our way out of this problem," he said. "There is no one solution to this; there's an integrative set of solutions. And you have to undertake them all. So when the whole debate focuses around we have to choose this one solution or that, people are missing the point."

Tillerson stressed that energy policy is bigger than any one candidate, and "for people or policymakers to pick one as being the winner is really shortsighted," he said. Policy must instead be a comprehensive, long-term approach.

"And that does get to the question of are we doing everything here at home that we could be doing. And I think most people have come to the realization that, for many, many years, the United States has not fully developed its own natural resources."

The Next Generation

Instead of focusing on independence, Americans "should be developing, again, all the supply sources and all the options that we can develop in a way that's efficient and is going to provide energy at a cost that Americans can afford."

Tillerson sees ExxonMobil as more than an oil company -- more of an energy company that provides natural gas and coal while exploring alternative, renewable fuels and nuclear power. He said that the company is investing $100 million in a pilot plan to examine a new technology that can separate CO2 from gas streams.

"For ExxonMobil to make a meaningful difference, we've really got to find a way to change those technologies to provide those alternative forms of energy on a much larger scale and at a cost that people can afford," Tillerson said. "It doesn't do the consumer a lot of good to substitute an alternative fuel that costs $5 for gasoline that costs $4."

Tillerson explained that the percentage of funds invested in alternative energy does not compare to the amount invested in stock buybacks for company shareholders, because "we haven't found an alternative to invest in that makes a lot of sense for us."

ExxonMobil invested $12.5 billion, a record amount of capital into exploration expenditures, in the first half of 2008. But 55 percent of their profits go to stock buyback.

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