Greening of Exxon, Rockefellers drive for Change

WSJ has front page article "Rockefeller Rebellion Turns up Heat on Exxon", where the Rockefeller family is driving for changes to address global warming, renewable energy, and a more sustainable future for the company beyond oil and gas.

Rockefeller Rebellion
Turns Up Heat on Exxon

John D.'s Heirs Seek Change -- and Respect

May 24, 2008; Page A1

Two decades ago, Neva Goodwin Rockefeller grew so tired of all the baggage that came with her fabled family name that she changed it and became plain Neva Goodwin.

But now, Ms. Goodwin, 63 years old, is embracing the powerful Rockefeller name as she publicly challenges the management of Exxon Mobil Corp., successor to the oil company founded by her great-grandfather, John D. Rockefeller. As Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, she has marshaled four generations of Rockefellers to join her in a campaign to force major changes at one of the most profitable companies in the world. The battle will come to a head at Exxon's annual meeting Wednesday in Dallas.

Some members of the family joined the fight out of a passionate belief in the threat of global warming; others were concerned that Exxon is overlooking business opportunities or risks. Many seem offended that the company appears impervious to the wishes of its shareholders, including those named Rockefeller.

Also in the WSJ, details are given as to what is on the agenda for the May 29 shareholders meeting.

Most activists believe governments will soon mandate carbon-emissions constraints in order to curb global warming. This will lead to the swift rise of nonfossil fuels such as wind, solar, nuclear and biomass.

Exxon faces a raft of shareholder resolutions aimed at both steering the company toward a greener future and forcing change at the top by appointing an independent chairman.

These votes have been gathering momentum. In 2003, a proxy resolution to split the chairman and chief executives roles received 22% of the vote. Last year, it got 40%. Another proposal, to require Exxon to set specific goals limiting greenhouse-gas emissions, was favored by 31% of shareholders last year. Both are back on Wednesday's ballot. A new proposal would require Exxon to take a hard look at sustainable-energy technologies.

Offering vocal support to all three measures are descendants of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Exxon-forerunner Standard Oil. Not only are they using their name to draw attention to the resolutions, the family and its retinue have been on the road in recent weeks urging institutional investors to cast their shares in favor of change. Exxon management opposes these resolutions, arguing that its record speaks to its ability to adroitly handle complex energy markets.

These resolutions are non-binding. If one attracts a majority of votes, Exxon could simply ignore it. But precedence and good corporate governance suggest otherwise. Two years ago, a shareholder resolution calling for the resignation of any Exxon director who doesn't get a majority of votes passed and was subsequently adopted by the board.

It will be interesting to watch how the battle between the Rockefellers and Exxon management plays out. This battle reminds me of potential ones between those who want to green their data centers and those that are defending the status quo.

The Google News search turned up 590 articles on "Exxon Rockefeller."