Monday, February 4, 2008


Last week, Royal Dutch Shell announced that profits for the company soared to $26.7 billion in 2007, a record-breaking figure for a European company.

The next day, The New York Times reported that "Exxon Mobil's performance last year was a blowout." The oil giant revealed last Friday "that it beat its own record for the highest profits ever recorded by any company, with net income rising 3 percent to $40.6 billion." Exxon Mobil's sales exceeded the gross domestic product of 120 countries.

From the beginning of President Bush's tenure in office, the combined profits of the big five oil companies have skyrocketed from just under $40 billion in 2001 to $120 billion in 2007. President Bush has devoted his presidency to protecting and subsidizing oil company profits.

In December, 2007 he killed tax incentives for wind and solar power, alternative fuels, energy efficiency, clean coal, and cleaner cars in a successful effort to preserve more than $1 billion in annual big oil tax loopholes. These subsidies remain in place in the President's latest budget.

The worldwide increase in demand for crude oil from developing economies like China and India and from mature ones like the United States is one of the reasons crude oil prices and oil company profits have soared.

But as Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz recently noted in Vanity Fair, "The soaring price of oil is clearly related to the Iraq war. The issue is not whether to blame the war for this but simply how much to blame it."


Jack Lohman said...

There are some options to the oil issue, though right-wingers will not be happy with them.


Jack Lohman

Anonymous said...

Not to defend the oil companies, but I believe that their profit margins were around 10-11%, I believe Google and Microsoft has had profit margins of 30-40%, do you have the same complaints? What amount is a proper profit?

Michael Rosen said...

The concern with oil companies is that they are given significant tax breaks, ie subsidies, while making record level profits. This suggests that the subsidies are not necessary or justified.

Yet, there is a significant opportunity cost associated with subsidizing large oil corporations. The money the federal government does not collect from oil companies, is not available for the Center for Disease Control, whose budget President Bush just proposed cutting, for vocational education, which he also proposed to eliminate, for underfunded veterans medical care, for reducing the deficit or other socially necessary investments (extending UC benefits or repairing the infrastructure) that have been ignored.

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