Shareholders nix `social’ measures

DALLAS (AP) — Shareholders of Exxon Mobil supported company management on Wednesday and rejected environmentalist-backed resolutions on global warming and renewable energy and a measure to ban discrimination against homosexuals.

Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond defended Exxon Mobil’s environmental record and said the world’s largest publicly traded oil company wouldn’t be pressured into making “social statements” that would hurt investors.

Shareholders met at the Dallas symphony hall amid tight security a day after environmental activists blocked the front gate and went into Exxon Mobil’s headquarters in Irving. On Wednesday, dozens of Dallas police officers kept their eyes on protesters, who were sometimes outnumbered by pro-Exxon demonstrators singing “Give oil a chance.”

Inside the hall, religious and environmental activists pushed the company to increase its investment in renewable energy and its actions against global warming.

“The world is going in our direction, and somehow this fossil company is still going entirely after fossil fuels,” said the Rev. Michael Crosby, representing a corporate-responsibility group in Milwaukee.

Raymond said the market for renewable energy was limited and driven almost entirely by government requirements rather than customer demand. He predicted that even with rapid growth, wind and solar power would account for less than 1 percent of world energy by 2020. He said lower-priced oil and gas will remain the dominant sources of energy.

Crosby’s renewable-energy measure got 21 percent support, only a slight increase over last year’s vote after two years of dramatic gains. A resolution urging the company to take a stronger stand against global warming got 22 percent.

Both measures were endorsed by Institutional Shareholder Services, a firm that advises institutional shareholders, but supporters said Exxon Mobil effectively persuaded many large investors to oppose them.

A measure to ban discrimination against homosexuals was defeated but received 27 percent, up from 24 percent last year. Kim Mills of the Human Rights Campaign said Exxon Mobil needlessly restricts the pool of potential workers and many other large U.S. corporations have approved similar resolutions, including J.C. Penney Co., this year.

The company argued that its policy prohibits discrimination of any kind and that explicit protection for gays is unnecessary.

There was little discussion during the meeting of Exxon Mobil’s stock performance, which has been better than the industry average over the past five years but down the past two years.

However, higher prices for crude oil and natural gas helped Exxon Mobil earn $7.04 billion in the first three months of this year, its best quarter since the 1999 merger of Exxon and Mobil.

In trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, Exxon Mobil shares fell 26 cents to $36.45.