Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 4, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
Tuesday, June UETHBRIDGE Oil giant fights to improve its image By Anthony Sampson, London Observer commentator LOS ANGELES It has been an unpopular spring for the oil corporations as one by one they have been through the ordeal of their shareholders' meetings, to a background of record profits and rising prices. But the most unpopular of all has been the Exxon Corporation (otherwise known as Esso or Standard Oil of New Jersey) which held its meeting here recently. For Exxon, as the biggest, the oldest and richest of the oil giants, has been the chief target for all kinds of critics. It has been accused of deliberately causing the energy crisis, of withholding key information, of having joined cartels in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and of failing to form one in Libya and of giving in to demands from King Faisal to cut off oil to American bases. Above all, it has been accused of "obscene BERRY'S WORLD last year its profits constitued a world record of any corporation in history: million, or roughly the same as Britain's last massive -international loan. Exxon has been accused ever since it was a centrepiece of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust in the last century of being a private government which no country could control, and this charge burst with new angei this winter as American drivers queued for gasoline, while profits soared. For many radicals Exxon has come to be associated with President Nixon as part of a deep conspiracy against the public, deeply expressed by the current slogan "Impeach In vain has Exxon presented heroic full-page advertisements and television commercials, at the cost of million last year: the newspaper advertisements, 1974 by NEA. Inc "Of course, I realize that nothing is permanent, but our relationship was going into the THIRD the chairman ruefully admitted last week, were probably counter productive. To make people understand the problems and achievements of the oil companies, he said, would entail nothing less than a change in the teaching in high schools which Exxon is now trying to achieve. The annual shareholders' meeting is an appropriate place to observe the uneasy frontier between a self- contained managerial corporation and the worried outside world. It was the first time that Exxon had come to the unpredictable atmosphere of Los Angeles, and precautions against a radical invasion were elaborate, with swarthy Exxon managers all round the hall. It was at the Masonic Temple of the Scottish Rite, whose eclectic aproach was not inappropriate to a multi national giant: murals of incongruous prophets Confucius, Moses, Zarathustfa looked down on the auditorium, and the word "Exxon" blazed from the stage in luminous red letters. In the audience were assembled 600 shareholders, determined to regard themselves as participating in this great organism; and among them in a bright blue suit was the familiar goblin like figure of Lewis Gilbert, the "corporate gadfly" who for the last 40 years has made it his special profession to ask awkward questions of boards at meeting: he wore a huge button saying "Shareholders have civil rights, Gilbert first went to an Exxon meeting in the thirties when there were only three people meeting in a garage in New Jersey: it is partly thanks to the efforts of him and other gadflies that the company is being forced to take annual meetings and reports more seriously. At this meeting there was a victory for Gilbert before it began: Exxon had agreed to appoint Martha Peterson, Dean of Columbia University, as its first ever woman director. The board of directors sat in the front rows: rugged managers, for the most part, who had started their careers at oil universities in Oklahoma or Texas, and who seemed bewildered that Exxon had ever attracted such angry interest. On the dais stood the chairman, Ken Jamieson, a craggy giant of a man who was standing no nonsense. He began his career at Medicine Hat, the son of a Mountie: and he made his name in Exxon as the man who could bring Texans to heel. Jamieson was unrepentant about the company's profits: if anything, it turned out, they were not high enough. Exxon was planning to spend million in the next four years to develop new sources of energy supply. Nor did he sound much worried that government would take over Exxon's role: only the resources and technology of a giant company could exploit oil in the North Sea, Malaysia or Northern Canada. Soon Lewis Gilbert popped up, with his first teasing question: Why, back'in 1967, had the previous chairman said "It is going to be a long long time before we have a shortage of But, said Jamieson, there isn't a shortage now only cutbacks for political reasons. Why, asked a shareholder, did Exxon cut off supplies to the Sixth Fleet in the Middle East war? Because, said Jamieson, there was no alternative after King Faisal's instructions. Then a gentle and eloquent black minister called Al Gorch got up and proposed a resolution, as if it was the most obvious brainwave: that the board should appoint a new director, Mr. Luis Cabral, leader of the African nationalists in Guinea Bissau (Portuguese Mr. Cabral was the right man to advise Exxon about its African policies. Mr. Gilbert said he would prefer an American black at first, and Mr. Jamieson began vigorously blowing his nose; but soon the subject of Guinea Bissau was taken up in a special resolution by a succession of shareholders, mostly representing churches Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers. Why did Exxon support the Portuguese against the Africans, asked a Hargrave Interested In You? Yes! But he needs your help. Residents of the Medicine Hat Riding are invited to become directly in- volved in the democratic election process. This is a very large con- stituency. Persons in all parts of this vast area are invited to volunteer their services. You may help with the following tasks: Typing Proof Reading Stuffing Envelopes Delivering Brochures Scrutineers Phoning Gonoral Office Work Publicity Poll Workors Driving Volunteer your services by stopping in at the Hargrave Headquarters, 228 South Railway Street, Medicine Hat, or by phoning 527-7135. Persons in the Taber area may phone 222-2164 and are invited to drop into the office in the Town of Taber, Inserted By The Medicine Hal Federal Progressive Conservative Association. Canadian Anglican: "Exxon has identified itself with King George, instead of with George Washington It's the ally of colonialism." There were more complaints, from an angry trucker who had been put out of business by the high price of oil, and from a man in Montana worried about the environment. Someone asked why Exxon had condoned blackmail, by paying million ransom money for their kidnapped manager in Argentina. But most of the shareholders were not very stirred by complaints: "Nobody makes you keep your said a stern old woman. "You can all sell it, and try some other stock." Mr. Gilbert briskly interjected: "That's a 19th- century philosophy, which nearly wrecked the capitalist The meeting ended sedately. The votes were counted and 99.76 per cent were in favor of the existing directors: the resolution that Exxon should recognize Guinea Bassau's independence obtained only 2.10 per cent of the votes. As far as the shareholders were concerned the directors had (to coin a phrase) been Exxonerated. Outside, some more truckers were driving around the streets in protest, and there were a few students holding placards saying "Profits go up 59 per "Roll back But their hearts were not really in it. On the face of it it was an easy passage for Exxon: the directors congratulated each other, Jamieson was visibly relieved, but it was an uneasy victory, for they all knew that Exxon faced rougher times ahead. Will it really be able to maintain its position and its profits, as consumer nations more and more negotiate directly with producer nations for their oil supplies? Will it become merely a shipper and seller of oil, while governments arrange their own supplies? Mr. Jamieson, at a press conference insisted that "what this country go is our economic and even appealed to the media to explain the workings of the profit system. But the events of the past months have left the oil companies in an unloved situation and the directors know it. They feel betrayed by the politicians in Washington most of all by the old allies of the companies in Congress, like Wilbur Mills, who are now insisting that they must pay higher taxes. They feel they have been made the scapegoat for what was inevitable the end of the age of cheap oil. Is this the beginning of a new wave of populism that will carry oil critics and demagogues, like Senator Jackson or Governor Wallace, to political triumphs? Or is it only one of those periodic rebellions against the realization that American society is increasingly structured round great profit making organizations but that nothing much can be done about it? Whichever way, the Exxon men have a pained realization that the public don't understand the world economic system which they are operating: or. if they understand it. they don't like it. Books in brief "Nebula Award Stories edited by Isaac (Fiizhenry Whiteside Ltd.. 245 The Nebula Awards are voted for by the Science Fiction Writers of America. This book includes the three 1972 winners and five runners up. There is an interesting introduction by Isaac Asimov in which he reviews the current trends in science fiction. The stories mostly depict changed forms of society rather than new machines and exotic space monsters. Taken as a whole they predict an ominous view of the future wilh a genera] decline in civilization. All the old vices and weaknesses of humanity have reappeared together wilh new and apparently insoluble problems. The stories are of easily readable length and are mosHy thought provoking. Anyone who has ever enjoyed reading science fiction will appreciate this book. MIKE PRATT In the midst of change By Norman Cousins, editor of Saturday A. L. Rowse, the English historian, once said that people who live in the middle of great historical change are seldom aware of it. A change of vast importance that is not fully understood is the extent to which the United States and the Soviet Union have had to redefine the nature of their national security and their foreign policies in general. The basic and original objective of Soviet policy was to foster world upheaval. Communist parties throughout the world, often with funds supplied from Moscow, attempted to bring about the overthrow of capitalist societies. This objective was modified in the early years after the Russian Revolution in order to give priority to the needs of socialism inside the Soviet Union. But this was only a shift of tactics rather than of basic aims. And Moscow never overlooked any possible advantages in situations involving tension or turmoil in the world. Even in the early Khrushchev years, the Kremlin did everything it could to exploit weakness in the internal affairs or in the foreign policy of the United States. Today, however, it seems clear that Soviet foreign policy has done a full about-face. The Kremlin today no longer feels it has anything to gain from disintegration in Europe and the United States. Quite the contrary, Soviet leaders will do everything they can to advance the stability of the West. They have been deeply troubled by the epidemic of chaotic political conditions in England, France, West Germany and Italy. Far from gloating over the Watergate scandals and Richard Nixon's political ordeal, the Kremlin is profoundly disturbed. What are the reasons for the turnabout? First, social and political unrest throughout the world adds prospects for Maoist China's membership list. China would like to be the operating and philosophical centre of world communism. So far as the Soviet Union is concerned, the main adversary is not the United States but China. And the differences with China involve not just the competition for ideological leadership of world communism but the conflict over their common border in Asia. China is claiming thousands of square miles seized by czarist Russia. Soviet leaders have no intention of relinquishing any of this territory. Their trouble in the East makes it all the more essential, therefore, for Soviet leaders to be secure in the West. Meanwhile, the United States has had to reassess its security policy with respect to the Soviet Union and China. A decade or so ago, some U.S. policymakers entertained visions of an open break between the Soviet Union and Communist China that might finish off both countries. Since that time, this notion has become a nightmare. Nothing would be more dangerous for the American people and all the world's people, for that matter, than a nuclear war between the two Communist giants. One of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's main objectives today, in fact, is how best to decrease the tension between Moscow and Peking. He knows that war between the two could become a fiery world furnace. Hence the United States has as much of a stake in the political stability of Asia as the Soviet Union has in the stability of the West. This, then, is the way the world turns in 1974 substantially different from the way that most people a decade ago thought it would turn or the way that some hoped it would turn. Inflation some facts By Robert L. Jeacock, Lethbridge student at Queen's University A well-known Cambridge University economist by the name of Joan Robinson is credited with having said that for every economic problem there exists a political solution. By now most Canadians are aware of this for they have heard at least three political solutions to the problem of inflation. What is unlikely to appear during this election campaign is a frank discussion concerning the causes and effects of inflation. The truth of the matter is that economists are in such a theoretical quagmire concerning the current world inflation that a small minority of them have suggested that the existing theory be scrapped for its inability to explain and deal with the present situation. Up until the mid 1960s most economists were willing to admit that enough was known about the causes of inflation that government policy could be reasonably effective in controlling rising prices. Governments could dampen an inflationary trend by implementing policies that ultimately led to higher unemployment. Although the evidence still supports the existence of a trade-off between inflation and unemployment, it does not explain the current condition of historically high unemployment combined with historically high inflation. Undoubtedly, the most frustrating situation that Canadians must contend with is the realization that Canada has what economists refer to as a small open economy. The implication of this fact is that the Canadian government, like a majority of the governments in the world today, has a minimum amount of control over domestic economic matters. (The notable exception to this case is the United States.) For a politician to admit that such a situation exists, and therefore to admit that he cannot do as much as he would like to in the fight against inflation, may be politically dangerous but nevertheless it represents an accurate description of the Canadian economy. Although economists are at odds over an effective method of controlling inflation, they agree that the recent experience of the U.S. and the UK strongly suggests that wage and price controls is not the remedy for inflation. There is some belief however, that if an incomes policy is sprung on the people in total surprise and if it is kept in force for a very short period of time, it may serve to squelch the expectational forces that fuel the fires of inflation. There is little evidence on this matter, however, and should the next Canadian government implement an incomes policy it will be no surprise to the Canadian people. There is no doubt that the economic theory dealing with the causes of inflation is weak. In addition, much of the evidence concerning the effects of inflation is inconclusive. Given the state of the art, one of the greatest fears of economists is that politicians will latch on to the "wrong" theory of inflation and thereby prescribe the "wrong" medicine. Under these circumstances the cure is apt to be worse than the disease. Given the present circumstances. Canadians may be doing themselves the most good by electing a government whose policy it will be to help the people cope with rising prices. For any party to suggest that it really can do something constructive about the Canadian rate of inflation, without creating additional hardships and bottlenecks in the economy, is to be less than candid about the full scope of the problem. Coercive language bill From Le Soleil, Quebec The language legislation that has been tabled in the Quebec national assembly is characterized by the desire to regulate extensively the use of French in all sectors of Quebec activity. By the same token, it regulates, or restricts in the current case, the use of the country's other official language in the province. In this spirit it pays special attention to immigrants who are neither English-nor French-speaking.The measures contained in the legislation are less and less of an incentive nature and more and more of a coercive one. Where the legislation's coercive nature seems most justified is its attempt to make French the normal working language of business. The lowering of the birthrate of French- speaking Quebecers and the integration of immigrants into the English-language school system has created a malaise in Quebec. It is justifiable that the French-speaking population attempt to integrate immigrants into their language and culture. In this respect. Quebec has already put into effect interesting incentive measures. This experience has unfortunately been too short. We have now resorted to coercive measures. It is now certain that, in the end. the over- all results will be better in the second case than the The danger exists that we may depend on texts of law to substitute for our own efforts to assure the diffusion of our language. Further, to force immigrants at al! costs to become the shock troops in our battle is simply to risk making them run away as conscripts rather than fight as volunteers. ON THE USE OF WORDS Bv Theodore M. Bernstein One or more. Sometimes one can mean more than one. Example: "One in every eight Americans now receive monthly benefits." Miss ThisUebottom. your grammar school teacher, would probably frown on that plural verb and in a strictly technical sense she would be right; the subject of the sentence is a singular noun, which according to the grammatical rule, should take .a singular subject. But the sense of the noun is plural: we are thinking of groups of eight and of one in each group. Hence the plural verb is permissible. However, if a sentence stresses the singular sense, the normal grammatical rule holds: "At -east one out of every two Americans is a churchgoer." The distinction is a subtle one. to be sure, but is a valid one. Excessive word. School systems have come up a word that you rarely encounter elsewhere If budget allocations permit only 30 assistant principals in a given district, let's say. and the district has 15. then five of them have to be transferred to another district because of excessing. Those five are excessed. Mot a bad word, but you'd think that schools these days have enough trouble -with the words we already have without coining new ones, wouldn't you?