Interview with Douglas Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar

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Douglas Oberhelman

Doug Oberhelman, chairman and chief executive officer of Caterpillar Inc., talks during an interview at the East Peoria plant earlier this week. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune)

A. I don't know if I'm going to vote for him. I really don't know who I'm going to vote for.

Q. You're a rare one then. Because you are a Republican?

A. I am a Republican.

Q. Well, either that bodes well for the President or you're not being honest with me.

A. I really don't know who I'm going to vote for. I voted absentee this week in the Republican primary because I'm going to be in China next week, but I don't know how that's going to finish up. I think the jury's out. Look, we have today the most divided government I've seen in my lifetime. And politicians are just the reflection of the rest of us. Until we get closer to fall, who knows what's going to happen. Right now, the No. 1 worry I have is energy prices. Oil at $100 to $110 is high.

Q. Because you make engines?

A. No, I mean for the economy in general. Well, I am worried about our customers because they buy diesel fuel to put in our engines. I'm more worried about the impact on our global economy due to very high energy prices.

Q. Have you said that to the President?

A. I have not.

Q. Which politicians do you speak with the most?

A. A number of congressmen and senators, mostly from Illinois.

Q. So (Illinois) Sen. (Dick) Durbin?

A. I just talked to him yesterday, actually.

Q. Which members of Congress?

A. Usually those around our factories. It's important they know what's important to Caterpillar.

Q. This is the first time The Tribune has had a chance to interview you since you wrote the letter to the governor. In it, you said you weren't sending the letters as a "threat," but people interpreted it that way. Do you wish you had reworded the letter?

A. No.

Q. Did you consider leaving Illinois?

A. I never said we were leaving or considered leaving. I wrote that letter very carefully.

Q. So you personally wrote it?

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