Editor's notebook.

Author:Shane, Jeff

It's unfortunate that ExxonMobil doesn't like to talk. It would have quite a story to tell, not just about oil and gas development, but how the use of advanced technologies helps to keep energy prices affordable, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and most importantly helps to raise the standard of living for millions around the world.

This column is not intended as a puff piece for ExxonMobil. Rex Tillerson & Co. have a lot more on their minds these days than what the editor of a niche energy magazine has to say, like what are they going to do about their growing portfolio in Russia unless President Putin returns to normalcy.

What motivated me was an unusual four-page advertisement in the Aug. 22 issue of the Houston Chronicle entitled "Thousands of jobs are coming to Houston."

The write-up briefly describes a new multibillion-dollar project to expand ExxonMobil's chemical manufacturing complex on the Houston Ship Channel in nearby Baytown. It mentions the project's economic benefits study which estimates that about 10,000 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs will be created in the community with 350 new jobs at the complex. This, it says, will add nearly $ 1 billion annually to the local economy and generate $90 million in tax revenue annually for local communities.

The ad notes that the project will place great demand for skilled workers, so ExxonMobil says it has committed $1 million at nine local community colleges to train students for high-paying jobs in the chemical industry.

The expansion is a direct result of the shale revolution in which low prices and ample supplies have led energy companies such as ExxonMobil to build or expand chemical plants that rely on cheap natural gas as a feedstock. It's also a result of some good long-range planning by ExxonMobil executives.

One of Tillerson's biggest moves after replacing Lee Raymond in 2006 was the 2009 purchase of XTO Energy. ExxonMobil paid a premium price of $31 billion which led to some criticism because of abnormally low natural gas prices at the time.

But CEOs of energy companies are paid to plan 10 years ahead. Buying XTO signaled that ExxonMobil realized the shale revolution was here to stay but that to manage their stake required an experienced top-drawer independent natural gas company that would become its domestic E&P operation.

That's why today ExxonMobil is the leading oil and gas producer in the U.S. and now the nation's largest chemical company. Now it can...

To continue reading