After a month of deliberation and conjecture, the president-elect of the United States has chosen arch oilman, the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, to be his Secretary of State.
The long-time head honcho of the world’s most powerful energy company will now become the world’s most powerful diplomat, a post occupied by six former presidents including three of the Founding Fathers.
The 64-year old Tillerson was set to retire from his post at ExxonMobil on reaching his 65th birthday in March 2017, as company policy dictates. He will now be swapping his office in Irving, Texas, for one on Capitol Hill.
The Texan is the 29th highest paid CEO in the world, taking home a salary of some $27 million in 2015 and boasting a net worth of around $150 million. Upon the assumption of his position in Donald Trump’s cabinet, he will be settling into a 131-fold pay cut as well as a comfy chair.
Despite the bombast and rhetoric that Trump espoused with regards to cutting down on cronyism and “draining the swamp”of special interests lobbyists, detractors will point to Tillerson as another in a line of Big Business insiders to accede to influential cabinet posts in his administration. Many would say that this is to be expected from a president that was moulded by Wall Street.
Aside from the fact that Tillerson comes to the role with no history of holding public office, two particularly boisterous camps will be disappointed, nay, outraged by his appointment: russophobes and environmentalists.
As the head of the energy world’s greatest corporate superpower for a decade, Tillerson forged personal relationships with both Russian premier, Vladimir Putin, and the main man at state-run oil company Rosneft, Igor Sechin. Few appointments could be seen as more Russian-friendly than that of a man who was decorated with the “Russian Order of Friendship” in 2013.
And for those of a green bent, Tillerson is unmistakably red. Much like his soon-to-be employer, he is not a believer in the science behind anthropomorphic climate change, and once famously referred to biofuel as “moonshine”. He is unlikely to be leading the charge for solar energy at a climate summit near you any time soon.
But with respect to foreign policy experience, the man from Witchita Falls cannot be dismissed. Critics have alleged that ExxonMobil has acted almost supranationally for decades, and there is no doubt that, in many countries around the world, the company has had a larger diplomatic footprint than the United States government through its on-the-ground oil deals with local and state officials. If there is any game he can play, Rex can play politics.
It has long been said by commentators of all flavours and persuasions that “energy is politics”; today that was written large in concrete with a black golden nib….