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18 January, 2017

Exxon Mobil frequently sought State Department assistance

Crony capitalism reality over free market fairy tale

Exxon Mobil under its CEO Rex Tillerson frequently pressed the U.S. State Department for help in negotiating complex business deals and overcoming foreign opposition to its drilling projects, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept.

The requests for help — documented in diplomatic cables obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request from DeSmogBlog as well as some previously released by Wikileaks — raise a whole new series of conflict-of-interest concerns about Tillerson, who retired as Exxon Mobil CEO soon after being nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next secretary of state.

Consider: Exxon Mobil sent State Department officials a request to help overcome local opposition to fracking in Germany; in Indonesia, the State Department acted as a advocate for Exxon Mobil during contentious negotiations between the firm and the Indonesian government over a major gas field in the South China Sea; and in Russia, Exxon Mobil asked the U.S. ambassador to press the Russians to approve a major drilling program, noting that a “warming of U.S.-Russian relations” overall would also help the company.

Under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, the State Department started its own in-house energy promotion department, the Bureau of Energy Resources. The team works on a variety of energy projects, but its most high-profile programs have been focused on spurring the worldwide spread of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) technology, with the hope that doing so would blunt the influence of certain foreign powers. The Bureau’s Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (formerly the Global Shale Gas Initiative) has in the past engaged with Exxon Mobil for projects in Poland and eastern Europe.

In theory,” said Stephen Kretzmann, the executive director of Oil Change International, “the U.S. State Department is supposed to promote American values and human rights around the world, but in practice that often comes into conflict with an agenda to ensure access for American firms to new markets and reserves.

In reality, said Dan Beeton, international communications director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “generally, the U.S. promotes ‘stability’ abroad, rather than democracy or human rights — stability that benefits U.S. Businesses.

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