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Becky: Hi everyone, and welcome back to EnglishClass101.com. This is Culture Class, Season 3, Lesson 8 - The Top 5 Most Powerful Companies in Energy and Manufacturing. I’m Becky.
Eric: Thanks for being here with us for this lesson! My name is Eric.
Becky: In this lesson, we're going to talk about the top 5 most powerful companies in Energy and Manufacturing. These are the big, rich, popular brands you see and hear about every day in the US. They’re the companies who have a huge influence on our world, and as we’ll see, sometimes their impact is good and other times disastrous.
Eric: But just because you see a brand everyday doesn’t mean it made it on this list. This list is of the largest and most powerful companies in Energy and Manufacturing. And there's only five spots so, we're pretty exclusive. Let’s get started!
Becky: Number 5 of our top Top 5 Most Powerful Companies in Energy and Manufacturing is GE.
Eric: GE stands for General Electric, and it was originally founded in 1892.
Becky: That’s right. General Electric is an old company. It’s one of the top 10 richest companies in the USA and has been among the top 20 richest for over 100 years. In fact, of our top 5, GE is currently the second richest at $230 billion.
Eric: GE makes many things. Ovens, microwaves, light bulbs of course, and lots of other appliances.
Becky: And in addition to consumer products, they make things that the average person wouldn’t buy.
Eric: Right, like propulsion products for airplanes and renewable wind energy turbines.
Becky: If you look closely, you’ll see products made by GE all over in the US.
Eric: For that matter, you can see GE products in almost every country in the world. When using worldwide metrics, GE is currently the third largest company in the world.
Becky: But while GE has been successful in growing their business, they have also had a lot of problems, especially when it comes to the environment.
Eric: In the past, GE has gotten bad press over their treatment of the environment. In 1999, they paid a settlement of $250 million to the federal government for polluting the Housatonic River in Massachussetts. Since then, they have started a campaign called Ecomagination to make cleaner and more responsible products.
Becky: Well hopefully they can start having a positive impact on the environment.
Eric: Let’s hope so. Number 4 in our Top 5 is Chevron.
Becky: Chevron is an energy company and they are involved in oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy sources from the drill to the pump.
Eric: That’s right. Chevron doesn’t do much manufacturing, but they do have a few plants. Most of what they do is oil – drilling, exploration, refining, marketing, transport, and distribution.
Becky: Chevron is one of the six largest oil companies in the world with yearly revenues at around $220 billion.
Eric: Like GE, Chevron has caused serious environmental problems in the past.
Becky: For example, in 2011 there was an oil spill off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The drilling rig operated by Chevron broke the sea floor and allowed oil to leak from the reserve into the ocean.
Eric: The Brazilian government believes that Chevron acted irresponsibly and is suing Chevron for over $10 billion.
Becky: In fact, in almost every country that Chevron operates in there have been severe environmental or legal controversies, from tax evasion, to deforestation, to violating the clean air act.
Eric: Now, it’s not all bad. Chevron has had many problems, but there are good things too. They do provide oil and gas to automobiles all around the world which allows for the transport of food and products to millions of people every day.
Becky: If you search on the internet for which gas company Americans prefer, you're not likely to get a clear answer. Part of the reason is that all gasoline sold in the US is almost exactly the same. The only thing that changes is what additives each company puts in their product, but it mostly stays the same.
Eric: That's right! Each company, Chevron included, adds certain chemicals to the pure gasoline. Each chemical causes something different to happen within the motor. Chevron’s additive is called Techron. Speaking of gas, that brings us to the next company on our list, ConocoPhillips.
Becky: That’s right! Number 3 on our Top 5 is ConocoPhillips.
Eric: Now, of the companies on our list, ConocoPhillips is the “poorest” or least rich of them all.
Becky: However, their real “power” or influence isn’t money. ConocoPhillips used to be a huge conglomerate with a similar structure to Chevron, working in many different aspects of the energy business.
Eric: Now, however, they focus only on oil and natural gas exploration and production. In other words, they only look for and extract oil and natural gas.
Becky: That’s right. It’s the largest company in the world that focuses only on oil and natural gas exploration and production.
Eric: This is a recent change however. The split only happened in 2012. The other parts of the company that dealt with distribution, marketing, and transport became a new company called Phillips 66.
Becky: That’s why you don’t see many Conoco gas stations in the USA anymore. Now they’re all Phillips 66 stations.
Eric: And that’s why they’re on this list. On the surface they’re only one company that deals in one area of oil production. But, in reality the company is connected to almost every aspect of oil and natural gas in the world.
Becky: It’s a unique setup, that’s for sure. Which brings us to the next company on our list, Shell.
Eric: That’s right. Number 2 of our Top 5 is Shell Oil.
Becky: Actually, the real name of Shell Oil is “Royal Dutch Shell.” Shell Oil is the official name of the US subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell. In 2014, Royal Dutch Shell was listed as the largest company in the world by revenue.
Eric: Royal Dutch Shell is active in every aspect of oil and natural gas production- refining, extraction, exploration, and trading. They also have the largest amount of renewable energy investments of any of the large and major oil companies.
Becky: Though this is a list of American companies, Royal Dutch Shell is not based in the United States. It is based in the Netherlands.
Eric: However, the largest single subsidiary is in the United States and it’s headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Becky: The Shell Oil Company is active in all 50 US states and the Royal Dutch Shell company is active on five of the seven continents.
Eric: Which brings us to number one of our top five most powerful companies in energy and manufacturing. That company is Exxon Mobil.
Becky: ExxonMobil has an interesting history. ExxonMobil is the direct descendent of the Standard Oil Company originally created by John D Rockefeller.
Eric: John D Rockefeller, by the way, was the richest man ever to live. This was because his Standard Oil Company controlled over 90% of the oil reserves in the world for a long time.
Becky: Many people also took issue with their business practices. They were sued by the state of Ohio for monopolizing oil. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and Ohio won the case. The US government then split the company into 34 different sub companies. Two of those companies were Jersey Standard Oil and Socony.
Eric: The interesting part is that Jersey Standard Oil later developed into Exxon and Socony later developed into Mobil. These two companies merged and became Exxon Mobile. They basically recreated Standard Oil, with a different name of course.
Becky: ExxonMobil has had serious environmental and social responsibility problems as well. The most famous was the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
Eric: But that wasn’t the only one. There have been oil spills in Brooklyn, Baton Rouge, Montana, and Russia.
Becky: ExxonMobil also has a unique stance concerning alternative energy. Basically, they believe that currently there is no technology that can completely replace petroleum.
Eric: For that reason, they see no reason to invest resources into research that show no promise of return. In other words, they’re not going to pay for something unless they know it’s going to work.
Becky: Well some would argue that not investing money into renewable energy is the reason that these technologies aren’t ready to replace oil. With ExxonMobil’s huge resources, they could really make progress in renewable technology.
Eric: It’s definitely an interesting and controversial company policy. Okay, well, that just about does it for this lesson!
Becky: Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time! Bye!
Eric: See you!