Democratic Underground

July 6, 2001
by Susan Sigandres

ExxonMobil. The big oil company everyone around the world loves to boycott. In other parts of the world, Exxon is called Esso, a brand name that was also used in the US until 1972. Watergate was grabbing headlines when Esso changed its name to Exxon. To correspond with this name change, the advertising slogan switched from Esso's "Put a tiger in your tank" to Exxon's "We're changing our name but not our stripes." This brought about a ubiquitous car sticker - an American flag with the word "Nixxon" in the Exxon logo script and the tag line "We're changing our name but not our stripes."

NixxonMobil. The big oil company that somehow manages to get its name mixed up with the party of Lincoln's political machinations. The company's name wasn't prominently linked to the Reagan-Bush Iran/Contra mess, so the Board of Directors must be really pumped up about the extraordinary comeback the corporation has made in terms of public awareness - all thanks to the abundantly generous George W Bush regime.

Boom or Bust, Who does NixxonMobil Trust?

Tricky Dick's own Dick Cheney colluded with every fat cat in the oil patch to produce a government welfare program for the energy industry on behalf on the Bush regime. Name any energy company at all and it was no doubt represented at Cheney's secret gatherings of the oil cabal in Washington DC. NixxonMobil, as the biggest Big Oil corporation, is also the party of Lincoln's biggest welfare queen.

Last year, NixxonMobil earned $16,910,000,000. Call it $17 billion. This is an increase of $8,530,000,000 from 1999, which we'll round up to an even $9 billion. Welfare Queen Lee Raymond, NixxonMobil CEO and Chairman, got paid $17.32 million. To make that kind of money, you'd think that Welfare Queen Lee Raymond devotes every waking moment to NixxonMobil. So you could be forgiven for wondering how he finds the time to be a member of the many organizations listed in his profile. Lee Raymond even belongs to such sentimental favorites as The Council on Foreign Relations, The Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg. With all that money in his bank account, you've also got to wonder if one world is quite enough for Lee Raymond.

Maybe it was because Lee Raymond wasn't around enough that his 2000 pay was slashed by $8 million from 1999, when he snagged $25 million. Or maybe it was because he couldn't find another oil company to swallow last year. Either way, that's a big pay cut, so Lee Raymond sure is lucky to be getting a nice juicy tax cut to go along with it, courtesy of George W. Bush and the party of Lincoln.

Upstream and Downstream All is Black and Viscous - No, Not the Oil, the Air!

To understand what NixxonMobil is up to, take Deep Throat's advice: Follow the money. In this case, it's money that Welfare Queen Lee Raymond is not spending to cut emissions. Competitors, such as BP Amoco and Royal Dutch-Shell, at least started paying lip service to cutting pollution and taking responsibility for meeting clean air standards. Not NixxonMobil. The corporation and its mouthpiece, Lee Raymond, continue to adamantly maintain that:

• Petroleum related emissions have nothing whatsoever to do with the earth's rising temperatures.

• Or in the alternative, cow and plant emissions are really the cause of dangerous CO2 levels.

• Or in the alternative, CO2 emissions are good for the environment.

Just how much of a laughingstock is NixxonMobil when it comes to the environment? Let's put it this way, of all places for any corporation to get nailed for pollution violations, Texas under George W Bush, with the most corporate-friendly environmental laws west of New Jersey, would be the absolute last choice if you had to guess, right? And you'd be wrong. Even Bush's administration, which made sure Texas ranked dead last of the 50 states in containing toxic air and chemical pollution from industry, had to haul NixxonMobil into court.

Last year alone, NixxonMobil pleaded nolo contendre and paid $180,000 for water pollution caused by pipeline leaks in Harris County and $130,000 for clean air violations at its Beaumont refinery. Naturally, Bush's administration settled these cases for chump change, but the fact that it felt compelled to go after NixxonMobil at all speaks volumes about the corporation's approach to the environment: pollute, deny, litigate, appeal, settle for pennies per ton of toxic waste emissions into the air, the water, and/or the land.

It's not that this strategy is different from that of other corporations, it's the sheer volume of violations - which are also public health and environmental threats - and the resulting suits that make NixxonMobil's behavior especially egregious. We're talking about public health threats from environmental damage here, in addition to long-term, potentially disasterous consequences for future generations.

Here are some other recent NixxonMobil goings on:

• Alaska, of course, won billions in judgments against the corporation for the 1996 Valdez spill, which NixxonMobil is doing its best to avoid paying by getting its high-priced corporate lawyers to drag out litigation.

• Illinois is going after NixxonMobil for violating a host of provisions in its Environmental Protection Act, as well as creating a public nuisance and violating a 1998 Consent Order.

• California teamed up with the US EPA to win an agreement from NixxonMobil to pay over $1 million for spilling oil into the Santa Clara River that amounted to a pollution violation trifecta - the Federal Clean Water Act, the California Water Code and the Federal Oil Pollution Act.

• California also had to take NixxonMobil to court to get the company to pay over $3 million in emissions fees for its Torrance refinery - racked up from 1994 to 1999. And, just two years earlier, NixxonMobil paid $4.8 million for dumping carcinogens into San Francisco Bay.

• New Jersey got a $67,500 settlement payment from NixxonMobil for violating clean air standards at a refinery in Paulsboro.

• The town of Plainview, NY filed suit against NixxonMobil for a gasoline additive leak that the corporation allegedly knew about and did nothing to prevent.

• Alabama won $87 million in compensatory damages and $3.4 billion in punitive damages for defrauding the state of royalties owed for the sale of natural gas produced at offshore wells - and it's not even a blue state! The corporation is appealing.

These are just some Exxon-Mobil's extracurricular litigation activities. All of which are answered by the stock-in-trade phrase of the accounting industry: "Claims for substantial amounts have been made against the corporation and certain of its consolidated subsidiaries in other pending lawsuits, the outcome of which is not expected to have a materially adverse effect upon the corporation's operations or financial condition." $17 billion sure does let NixxonMobil cruise by pollution laws.

Standard Oil by any Other Name Is Still Standard Oil

With a brand name now synonymous with everything that's wrong about corporations displacing government, you'd think NixxonMobil would try to engage in some heavy duty lies about how much it wants to be the oil company of all the people. Fact is, the corporation has no problem twisting, distorting and outright lying about science, so why not lie about itself?

But no. All it could come up with is this cheesy web-site pitch to whatever customers it has left: "Our line of ExxonMobil brands and services is designed to meet your driving needs and provide you with the best buying experience in the industry."

Lacking communication skills, if things really start to overheat for the corporation, as boycotters intend, it will have to try and escape its brand by changing its name again. From Standard Oil of New Jersey to Anglo American Oil to Humble Oil to Esso to Exxon to - whatever's next.

The corporation can go in one of two directions: Pick a new name that appeals to its remaining customers or pick a name intended to let the corporation hide from its pollution revisionism, thereby increasing the odds that more people will be tricked into buying its products. For option one, appealing to its existing customer base, NixxonMobil could become:

• ReaganMemorial Oil, and go with the tag line, "Put the gipper in your gears."

• Or PatriotForever Oil "We're changing our name but not our hype."

• Or SecondAmendment Oil, "Your guns, our gas for the best road rage experience in the industry."

The other option, changing its name to something more "green," in hopes of fooling the majority of people, will be problematical for NixxonMobil. The company has already tried to make the case for pollution with the political left by cleverly paying for op-ed space on The New York Times editorial page. Oooooh. That sneaky move sure fooled us all, huh?

The boycott of NixxonMobil clearly has legs. The real barrier to success is that we are battling against the ultimate arrogance: Even as it touts its position in the global marketplace, NixxonMobil flouts the standards of acceptable behavior in the global community. And let's also keep in this in mind - that neither the corporation nor Lee Raymond has a good name to lose.

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