While Tillerson offered mild criticism of Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, LGBQT people, and others, several Senators found his response far from full-throated and said as much. A DeSmog investigation shows that Exxon has long been involved in Saudi Arabia’s oil and gas industry. Not only did the company, through its predecessor Standard Oil, help launch the industry there and co-owned the country’s first major export pipeline, but to this day it maintains deep business ties with Saudi Arabia and the industry in a variety of sectors, both there and in the U.S.
“Sites under consideration are in St. James and Ascension Parishes, Louisiana and San Patricio and Victoria Counties, Texas,” details the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures website. “We are very early in the process and have extensive studies and due diligence to perform before making a site selection decision among the four sites under consideration.”
Though not clarified on the company website, presumably that gas would be obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), given the horizontal drilling technique’s rampant use in Texas’ Eagle Ford, Barnett, and Permian Basin shale formations, as well as in Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale basin. The facility’s website only maintains that “feedstock for the facility will be acquired from domestic sources,” but industry publication Platts reported that much of that could be sourced from the Eagle Ford.
“Today, ExxonMobil is one of the largest foreign investors in the Kingdom and also one of the largest private sector purchasers of Saudi Aramco crude oil,” reads the brochure. “Through our joint venture (JV) interests, we have participated in the petroleum refining and petrochemicals manufacturing industries in the Kingdom for over 35 years.”
Take the Saudi Yanbu Petrochemical Company (YANPET), a 50-50 joint venture between Exxon and SABIC, open in Saudi Arabia since the 1980s. This facility, similar to the Gulf Coast Growth Ventures one, creates the chemical compound ethylene, which is then used to manufacture plastics. YANPET is viewed as a worldwide model in the industry.
“Yanpet is a fully integrated plant, making it one of the largest and lowest-cost producers in the world,” writes Exxon. “It is recognized as a petrochemical industry global pacesetter.”
Opening in 1984, SAMREF situates itself as “one of the most sophisticated refineries in the Middle East, supplying products to a number of markets around the world,” according to Exxon. “SAMREF processes approximately 400,000 barrels per day of Arabian crude, and approximately half of its output is consumed domestically.”
“APSCO operates its aviation fueling services in almost 21 national and international airports. APSCO is a long term supplier of aviation fuels to the national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines at several airports in the kingdom,” details its website. “Also, APSCOprovides bunkering and marine lubricants in several national and international ports on a 24 hours basis, utilizing a fleet of bunkering ships.
The kindred bond between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia centering around fossil fuels is well-documented, becoming a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy after the famous handshake between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Saudi Arabia founder Abdulaziz Ibn Saud in 1945.
In fact, as a parting gift from the White House, the Obama administration offered $115 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia in September.
“We’ve often been reluctant to put as much pressure on states that we are dependent upon for oil, than in situations with states where we’re not dependent on oil,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) during Tillerson’s January 12 confirmation hearing.
Would Rex Tillerson, given the corporate ties that bind him to Saudi Arabia and his long-standing support for the country, reverse course on this status quo as U.S. Secretary of State? That’s doubtful, to say the least.
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