AirTalk for May 11, 2012

The world’s most powerful and secretive company

By Steve Coll

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

In “Private Empire,” Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Steve Coll spells out how ExxonMobil uses its money and influence to wield power in Washington, D.C. and especially how this was done during the Bush administration.

ExxonMobile is a global entity that exercises influence over every part of the world where it pumps oil and gas or sells it. Coll interviewed over 450 current and former ExxonMobile executives, lobbyists, diplomats, scientists, intelligence officers and analysts to paint a comprehensive portrait of one of the most powerful businesses American capitalism has ever produced.

For instance, Coll goes to great lengths to point out that the “clichéd idea that Exxon-Mobil was just an instrument of the Bush administration’s foreign policy—a kind of extension of the American government during the Bush years----is just wrong.” In fact, Coll posits that that company is anything but subservient to any national entity, as ExxonMobil brass “see themselves—ExxonMobil—as an independent sovereign nation with their own foreign policy.”

Sometimes these two policies are in sync, but ExxonMobil has been at odds with the U.S. government as well. The company funded outsider campaigns to challenge global warming studies which showed an existing trend. They did this not only to combat legislation, but to muddle the public’s perception of global warming as well.

How was one company able to grow so large? How much power does ExxonMobil exert? In what other countries has ExxonMobil acted like a sovereign nation? Does this power need to be curbed? Can it?

Guest:

Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobile and American Power (The Penguin Press). Coll is the president of the New America Foundation. Steven Coll’s previous books include “The Bin Ladens” and “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001”


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