Dear Mr. Woods,
The company that you are the Chief Executive Officer of, ExxonMobil, has long been the leading energy and oil company in the United States. For many years, ExxonMobil has refined oil and provided gas to millions of people. Between the number of jobs that Exxonmobil creates and oil production, ExxonMobil has played a critical role in the growth of the American economy and in access to energy. However, these benefits have come at an enormous cost. Exxonmobil’s carbon emissions are extraordinarily high. Your company is the highest emitter of all American companies. If Exxonmobil was a country, it would rank in the top 10 for highest carbon emissions, with roughly the same amount of carbon emitted per year as the entire nation of Canada.
I grew up in Colorado - a state well known for its natural beauty and opportunities to experience the outdoors, and my childhood was no different. Many of my fondest memories were made in the great outdoors while hiking, camping, and kayaking. I have developed a love and appreciation for nature, and as a result I often struggle to understand why other people do not feel the same desire as I do to protect our natural environment. Even within my relatively short lifetime, climate change has become increasingly evident. Every year, weather becomes more extreme, and record-setting droughts, wildfires, heat waves, floods, and hurricanes seem to fill media headlines. Climate change is real and it is here. In response, I have become infuriated and downright disappointed by ExxonMobil’s and other corporations’ inability and outright unwillingness to adapt to the challenges of the 21st century.
I understand that as a CEO of a major company, you are faced with additional pressures that may affect your opinions on adapting Exxonmobil’s practices to be more sustainable. After all, you have a board of directors to appease, and as CEO you have profit expectations to meet for your own job security. Moreover, you are not the founder of Exxonmobil, and the company has been emitting large amounts of carbon long before your tenure as CEO began. I also understand that your decisions may be clouded by traditional capitalist American values, which may incline you to prioritize profits and growth over other people and over the planet. Despite all of this, however, I cannot rationalize Exxonmobil’s attempts to influence climate legislation while simultaneously distancing itself from Congress by outsourcing lobbying efforts to trade groups.
Exxonmobil has consistently fought against climate change legislation while participating in an industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation regarding the role of fossil fuels in climate change, as evidenced by the House Oversight Committee investigation last year in 2021. Your company has engaged in lobbying politicians to vote against important climate legislation. And while this is infuriating and frustrating, a degree of responsibility also falls on voters to make politicians’ environmental beliefs a higher priority when considering who to vote for.
Mr. Woods, I fully believe that you and your colleagues know that polluting the environment is detrimental, and that you know that climate change is real. The mere existence of Exxonmobil’s emissions reduction plan supports this. Continuing unsustainable practices without more drastic changes is informed negligence, which indicates to me that you are willingly polluting the planet for your own profit. In trying to rationalize this implication, I can only think of two alternatives. Either, you are greedy and selfish beyond belief, or you are so cynical that you do not empathize for the planet or for your children’s generation.
Throughout history, every generation has been tasked with addressing and solving national and often global challenges in order to leave the world a better place for their children. The Greatest Generation endured World War I and the Great Depression. Baby Boomers grew up during the Civil Rights Movement, while Millennials’ became young adults during the Great Recession. As a member of Gen Z, my generation is no different. For us, the climate crisis has been dumped into our lap as a result of the actions of many generations before us.
Solving the climate crisis will take the collective effort of corporations, governments, and civil society. Exxonmobil - and other oil companies - need to understand their responsibility in this fight as corporations to uphold our collective values. If you do not accept this responsibility, and continue to influence the policymaking process, then it will fall on American voters to put climate-oriented politicians into power. That being said, you should not become complacent – own up to your duties. After all, the responsibility should not fall on ordinary voters, but rather on yourself and the corporations who are the most responsible for emissions.
You have the ability to lead the charge by supporting politicians and climate measures that will establish the necessary framework to enter a new era of clean energy. While profits may decline in the short-term, the well-being of this planet, its inhabitants, and future generations depends on actions taken today. Even if the Earth is uninhabitable for humans, it will still be here. Nature always wins. For myself as a member of civil society and for you as a representative of a corporation, we have a moral obligation to support and vote for politicians that will help the environment. If we don’t, climate change will exponentially worsen, and all of humanity will suffer the consequences.