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Exxon CEO says sanctions against Rosneft leader not hurting his company's business in Russia

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DALLAS - The CEO of Exxon Mobil says U.S. sanctions against Russian officials are having no effect on his company's activities there.

Rex Tillerson also says that he is skeptical of sanctions and has discussed his view with U.S. government officials.

Tillerson made the comments Wednesday after Exxon Mobil Corp.'s annual meeting.

U.S. sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea have targeted close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including the president of Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, but not the company itself. Exxon has an exploration and production agreement with Rosneft in the Russian arctic and Siberia.

"There has been no impact on any of our business activities in Russia to this point, nor has there been any discernible impact on the relationship" with Rosneft, Tillerson told reporters. "The organizations continue to work business as usual."

Tillerson said he generally opposes sanctions as imprecise and ineffective. He said he has discussed his view with U.S. officials. He declined to identify them but said, "Our views are being heard at the highest levels."

Exxon Mobil earned $32.6 billion last year, a decline of 26 per cent from 2012. Revenue fell 9 per cent to $438.3 billion. Exxon shares gained 17 per cent last year but have been flat in 2014. But, as it has for several years, environmental debates crowded out financial ones at the annual meeting of the nation's largest oil company.

About 15 people protested across the street from the meeting hall, charging that Exxon was not doing enough to reduce climate change and develop alternative sources of energy to burning oil and natural gas.

Inside the hall, a dissident shareholder and Dominican sister from New Jersey, Pat Daley, said that Exxon was making a long-term business mistake by not moving more aggressively into alternative fuels. She said the company was betting "that the nations of the world will continue to do nothing about climate change for the next 30 years."

U.S. carbon emissions fell 12.5 per cent from their peak in 2007 until 2012, but they rose 2.4 per cent last year and were up 7.5 per cent in the first two months of this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Tillerson said that he was confident that technology will provide a way to reduce emissions, and he said proponents of ideas such as hard emissions-reduction goals were simplistic.

Tillerson said that he didn't trust any of the models that predict certain changes in global temperatures and climate. He also said there is no single answer to climate change and that people in developing countries still desire the same living standards as those in the developed countries.

Shareholders rejected a resolution urging Exxon to set numerical goals to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions both from its own operations and the use of its products.

Tillerson said that the company has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 11 million tons over the past five years, which he said was equal to taking nearly 2 million cars off the road.

Exxon Mobil predicts that alternative fuels will grow but that oil will remain the world's leading source of energy for another quarter century, accounting for one-third of all energy use in 2040.

Tillerson received compensation worth $28.1 million last year, placing him 12th on the list of the highest-paid CEOs, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and executive-pay research firm Equilar. In an advisory vote, Exxon shareholders overwhelmingly supported the company's executive compensation.

Exxon is based in Irving, Texas.

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