July 1, 2008 / 5:20 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. turns against curbs on oil drilling: Exxon

MADRID (Reuters) - The U.S. public mood is moving toward allowing drilling in areas which are currently off limits to the oil majors due to environmental concerns, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil said on Tuesday.

Sea ice floats within the 1002 Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Image Library. REUTERS/HANDOUT/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Image Library

Rex Tillerson said outdated environmental attitudes were the reason for opposition to drilling in areas such as the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“We’re stuck in this emotional, environmental past ... Public sentiment in the United States seems to be shifting,” Tillerson told Reuters in an interview. “The American people are kind of sick and tired of these prices.”

Some politicians have questioned the impact on prices of opening U.S. offshore waters that are now closed to energy exploration. Last week Guy Caruso, who heads the federal Energy Information Administration, said consumers would see little savings at the pump from the move.

Tillerson dismissed this view.

“When people make statements like that it suggests to me that they don’t understand how the 85 million barrels (of total world oil production) today is delivered,” he said.

Every barrel counted he said, adding that even if only 100,000 barrels per day of production per day were added, “it’s going to make a big difference”.

Tillerson said Exxon would look at any opportunities that arise. “We’d be very active in anything that’s opened up in the future,” he said.

Exxon has faced criticism in Alaska after the U.S. Supreme Court last week overturned a $2.5 billion punitive damages award against the world’s largest non-government controlled oil company by market capitalization.

The CEO added he hoped the decision would not mar the company’s relationship with the state.

“I hope we can work co-operatively with the state and that this doesn’t become a distraction,” he said.

The state of Alaska vowed to tighten oversight on Exxon after the ruling but Tillerson said he was not worried about this. “I don’t know how their oversight can get much tighter,” he said

Editing by David Holmes

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