Transcript: Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO

The first thing we do is invest in all the projects that we have available to us and that make sense to invest in. And the second thing we do is pay all our taxes, pay all our operating costs, all of our employees and all the people that do business with us. And then we see what's left over. And what's left over we try to return efficiently to the shareholder, because it's their money. So we do that through dividends, and we do it through share buybacks. Our shareholders then take all that money, and they're doing something with it elsewhere in the economy.

CHARLES GIBSON: The numbers I have seen: 1993, 1 percent of your profits were going to buybacks; 2000, it was 30 percent; 2007, it's 55 percent going to stock buybacks. While in the same time, the percentage on exploration, flat. The percentage of profit on exploration, unchanged.

REX TILLERSON: Well, again, that's a function of the opportunities available to us. But we are spending at record levels. And we're going to continue to spend at those very healthy levels. But we have to have good opportunities in which to invest. And we're not going to just spend the money because it's there. That would be not using the money wisely, which, again, belongs to our shareholders.

So, again, our investment levels are at record levels. We're continuing to invest heavily in new technologies to support those investment levels. And we'll continue to do so.

CHARLES GIBSON: The oil companies have campaigned for more access, more leases on public lands for exploration. And a lot of people ask why don't you use the leases you have?

REX TILLERSON: Well, we are using the leases we have, Charlie. I think this whole issue belies a failure of understanding around how oil and gas are discovered, explored for and developed. You know, you lease up large areas of acreage. And you really don't know what's there. And so then you conduct a lot of exploratory activities. And you hope to find something in some part of that acreage. So most of the acreage that's under lease does not contain commercial oil and gas quantities. It's the nature of exploration.

In our own case, 78 percent of the acreage that we have leased is actively being explored, developed, produced, under study. And the remaining part that's not, the remainder of that 100 percent is due to expire in the next year. And it will be returned back to the federal government.

CHARLES GIBSON: Ninety-one million acres, I believe, under lease to the major oil companies; 68 million unused at the moment. Is that...

REX TILLERSON: Well, that's not an accurate characterization, again, in terms of unused. It means either that acreage has already been explored and evaluated, and there's nothing there to be produced or developed. And, again, at the end of the lease terms, these acreage -- these leases are turned back to the federal government, where they can be leased again if others want to look in areas where others have not been successful. But the rest of the acreage is actively being studied, explored or waiting to be developed.

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