The White House and ExxonMobil were in sync Monday. Some might even call it mind-meld.
In a press release, ExxonMobil highlighted the oil giant’s plan to spend $20 billion over ten years, build 11 chemical and natural gas projects and create 45,000 jobs. Within the same hour, the White House put out its own statement claiming credit for the expansion and adding: “The spirit of optimism sweeping the country is already boosting job growth, and it is only the beginning.”
One full paragraph appeared nearly identically word-for-word in each release. Another sentence appeared almost verbatim elsewhere.
The White House release quoted President Donald Trump saying that ExxonMobil’s investment plan “is exactly the kind of investment, economic development and job creation that will help put Americans back to work.”
But Exxon’s investment plan was launched in 2013 — four years ago. And while the White House was hailing the investment program by ExxonMobil and talked about Trump’s “promise to bring back jobs to America,” General Motors on Monday announced the layoff of 1,100 workers in Michigan.
Some oil analysts were not impressed. “There is nothing new or newsworthy here,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst with the investment firm Raymond James. “At the risk of stating the obvious, plenty of companies, across various industries, have been touting their U.S. job creation efforts in order to get on the Trump administration’s good side — even when the underlying job creation has little or nothing to do with Washington policy. This is simply the latest example of that.”
While spending $20 billion over 10 years is a huge commitment for most companies, it represents only 10 percent of ExxonMobil’s current capital spending levels. Those levels would likely increase with higher oil prices. Moreover, ExxonMobil has been a major operator and investor in the Gulf of Mexico for decades. The gulf accounts for nearly a fifth of U.S. domestic oil production.
The White House and company releases came shortly after ExxonMobil’s new chief executive Darren W. Woods talked about the 10-year plan at CERA Week, a major oil industry conference held annually in Houston.
“ExxonMobil is strategically investing in new refining and chemical-manufacturing projects in the U.S. Gulf Coast region to expand its manufacturing and export capacity,” said the company’s press release, posted at 3:10 pm Eastern. “The company’s Growing the Gulf expansion program, consists of 11 major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Investments began in 2013 and are expected to continue through at least 2022.”
“Exxon Mobil is strategically investing in new refining and chemical-manufacturing projects in the United States Gulf Coast region to expand its manufacturing and export capacity,” said the White House’s press release, in which Trump is quoted as praising Exxon for creating jobs. “The company’s Growing the Gulf program consists of 11 major chemical, refining, lubricant and liquefied natural gas projects at proposed new and existing facilities along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Investments began in 2013 and are expected to continue through at least 2022.”
The White House release was received by email at 3:44 pm and is posted on the White House website. Apart from some apparent copy-editing changes, the only difference is that the White House version describes the “Growing the Gulf program” rather than the “Growing the Gulf expansion program.”
The two releases also shared another nearly identical sentence — “These jobs will have a multiplier effect, creating many more jobs in the communities that service these new investments,” was stated by Woods in the ExxonMobil press release. With only a slight change, that sentence appeared, unattributed to Woods, at the end of the White House press release.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Chris Mooney, Steven Mufson