Climate change and a potential global energy crisis are overblown, said ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson in widely published comments.
In a speech on Wednesday, the Exxon CEO argued that while he admits that fossil fuels are a factor in warming the planet, societies can “adapt” to the changes.
He argued that the risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said, alluding to the perceived notion that the United States is dependent on Middle East oil.
The reality, however, is different, as the United States only imports around five percent of its crude oil from Arab nations.
Tillerson then blamed the American public, which he argued is “illiterate” in science and math, a “lazy” media, and advocacy groups that “manufacture fear” for energy misconceptions in the speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.
He highlighted that huge discoveries of oil and gas in North America have reversed a 20-year decline in U.S. oil production in recent years. He also trumpeted the global oil industry’s ability to deliver fuels during a two-year period of dramatic uncertainty in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil and gas-producing region.
“No one, anywhere, any place in the world has not been able to get crude oil to fuel their economies,” he said.
Tillerson, in a break with predecessor Lee Raymond, has acknowledged that global temperatures are rising. “Clearly there is going to be an impact,” he said Wednesday.
But he questioned the ability of climate models to predict the magnitude of the impact. He said that people would be able to adapt to rising sea levels and changing climates that may force agricultural production to shift.
“We have spent our entire existence adapting. We’ll adapt,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.”