The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as America’s chief diplomat by a single vote on Monday, after three Republicans who had been bruited as possible dissenters fell into line with President Donald Trump’s nomination.
The 11-10 vote on party lines will send Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State to the floor of the Senate, where the Republican majority is expected to easily confirm it.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio—a former Trump challenger for the Republican presidential nomination—was the last committee member to fold, among three who had expressed doubts about Tillerson’s suitability. He joined Arizona Senator (and former GOP presidential nominee) John McCain, and South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham, who had overcome their previously-expressed concerns over Tillerson’s deep ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his former company’s $500-billion development deal in that country, which had been stalled by sanctions put in place by the Obama administration.
In a round-up of Tillerson’s testimony to the committee, Politico reports that the lifelong Exxon employee said he planned to order the State Department to “conduct a review of [its] current role” in climate diplomacy. While Tillerson “agreed [that] increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were a factor in rising temperatures around the world, [he] said the scientific record did not show they were the ‘key’ factor,” a view counter to the overwhelming consensus among actual scientists.
Tillerson hedged on whether he would continue to include renewable energy as a component in U.S. foreign aid, hinting—falsely—that it was too expensive. “If I am confirmed,” Tillerson said, “I will remain mindful that foreign aid is funded with taxpayer dollars, and will seek to ensure that those dollars are used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Renewable energy technologies may be a viable form of aid, assuming they are sufficiently economic to deploy.” In fact, globally as well as in the United States, solar and wind power increasingly beat the products of Tillerson’s former company on price.
Tillerson’s old employer also stands to lose billions of dollars if the combination of climate stabilization policies and raw cost competition from renewable energy results in large portions of its petroleum reserves becoming stranded in the ground.
Tillerson also took the opportunity to reject what might have been an easy olive branch to the majority of Americans who say in surveys that they are worried by climate change and want the United States to lead the global response. The recent petro-baron refused to commit to a global agreement, drafted in October, to phase out the use of hydroflourocarbons. The Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol would take the equivalent of 80 billion tons (80 gigatons) of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the next 35 years, and reduce expected global warming by 0.5ºC.
Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law, had earlier described Tillerson’s nomination as “unconscionable, irresponsible, and potentially catastrophic.”