It started in the flats. This is the name of the marshland in Cleveland, where John D. Rockefeller in 1863 built its first refinery, a juggernaut of oil tanks, chimneys and trackage. The company, which he later called standard oil, proliferated to a gigantic monopoly that made America’s richest man and first billionaire – Rockefeller and the Patriarch of a US dynasty legendary until today.
Standard oil no longer exists, the Director of ExxonMobil was formed out of it. And John D. Rockefellers is oil wealth across swollen over generations, today by several foundations managed – including the Rockefeller family Fund, founded by his last surviving grandson David Rockefeller, who was last year 100.
Oil and the Rockefellers, that was always a synonym. Until now: this week announced the Family Foundation to divest their shares of Exxon and other oil and coal companies. The step although not surprised insiders and concerns a now tiny fraction of the Rockefeller billions. But the image is striking: of the world’s most legendary oil clan renounces of the oil.
What is behind this? And why now? Oil and coal are passé, writes the Foundation with reference to climate change: “It makes little financial or ethical sense, further these companies to invest in, while the global community continues to turn away from fossil fuels.” They would rather “in the Earth remain, it should give any hope that human and natural ecosystems survive the coming decades”.