Dear Lee

It’s been almost two years since Exxon CEO Lee Raymond was paid about $400 million upon retiring. I’ve been wondering how he’s been spending his “golden” years and thought I’d drop him a line… Dear Lee,

It’s been almost two years since Exxon CEO Lee Raymond was paid about $400 million upon retiring. I’ve been wondering how he’s been spending his “golden” years and thought I’d drop him a line…


Dear Lee,

Boy did you jump ship at the right time! The legal noose is tightening around the fossil fuel industry as the evidence of damages to planet earth from global warming stack up higher than an Oklahoma gusher. California sued automakers to recover costs to the state from greenhouse gases and other air pollution (much like tobacco companies that paid billions for health care costs because of their toxic air pollution). Those cars burn the products you sold for so long, so I’m guessing your old pals are next.

And did you hear that the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants under the Clean Air Act? Imagine if courts rule that fossil-fueled pollution creates such a public nuisance that it must be stopped or mitigated. Could that put a dent in the $11.7 billion net profit (the highest quarterly profit in the history of American commerce!) that your alma mater reported for the last quarter of 2007.

Do you see where this is going? Win or lose, these cases show that fossil fuels – – and greenhouse gases – – are fast becoming as welcome as lung cancer. Tobacco execs say they knew their days were numbered when people at their country clubs wouldn’t look them in the eye – – has that happened to you yet?

Alcan executive Dan Gagnier tells how his company slashed greenhouse gas emissions from a coal-fired power plant in England by tuning up machines and mixing some biomass with the coal. They sold the resulting carbon reduction “credits’ for $30 million and invested it in more biofuels and a wind farm, which generated more credits.

Well here’s some friendly advice, Lee, that might help you and the world (you’re doing charity work in retirement, right?). Alcan proved that protecting our climate was profitable. You could do the same with a few hundred million from your nest egg and maybe convince your oil pals to do likewise. Soon we would have small wind turbines and solar panels on every rooftop, biomass and hydrogen powering our cars, and clean, high-tech jobs right here in the USA. Oh yeah, and Exxon-Mobil and other companies would avoid being dragged into court and forced to cough up billions.


You might inspire automakers, who sued California to prevent implementation of the law that limits CO2 emissions from new cars. Instead of spending dough on lawyers, they could also follow the Alcan example and make enough money to reduce harmful pollution from their products. Oil companies could invest the millions they are spending to defeat California’s Prop 87 (a ballot initiative that would tax oil drilling and invest the money in clean alternative fuels) and invest that money in CO2 reductions just like Alcan. Imagine if all of this money started working to reduce greenhouse gases – – and make a profit in the process?! What a country!

Anyway Lee, don’t be a stranger. Get involved in this climate thing. You aren’t welcome at your country club these days anyway.

Terry Tamminen • • •


About the author

From his youth in Australia to career experiences in Europe, Africa, China and across the United States, Terry has developed expertise in business, farming, education, non-profit, the environment, the arts, and government. A United States Coast Guard-licensed ship captain, Terry has long been drawn to the undersea world, starting in the 1960s with a family-run tropical fish breeding business in Australia and continuing with studies on conch depletion in the Bahamas, manatee populations in Florida coastal waters, and mariculture in the Gulf States with Texas A&M University.