As Americans struggle to afford rising gas prices, Big Oil profits surge to $174 billion in nine months

U.S. oil companies are making more money than any other time in history.

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While working people in the U.S. struggle to cope with soaring gas prices, global fossil fuel corporations are making record profits.

According to a new analysis released Monday by the watchdog group Accountable U.S., 24 of the most profitable oil and gas companies have pulled in a combined $174 billion in profits in 2021, with a record $74.9 billing in the third quarter alone.

Gas prices have reached a seven-year high in 2021, with the average price of a gallon of fuel costing $3.40 compared with $2.10 a year ago.

Meanwhile, Big Oil is taking advantage of the high prices, and “Rather than taking steps to lower prices, oil corporations are reveling in their massive profits and using that money for their real priorities: stock buybacks and lining shareholders’ pockets.”

According to the report, shareholder gains have included:

  • 12 oil and gas corporations buying back over $8 billion worth of stock by the end of the year with plans to buy even more in future quarters 
  • 16 oil and gas corporations raised their dividend at least once in 2021 
  • 11 oil and gas companies gave payouts to shareholders totaling north of $36.5 billion 
  • The same corporations paid their CEOs massive salary and compensation packages most over $10 million dollars, and as high as $33 million for Chevron CEO Michael Wirth.

The 24 Big Oil companies mentioned in the report also have provided their CEOs with annual compensation packages upwards of $10 million dollars, and most have raised their dividend at least once this year.

Prices remain high as companies make conscious choices not to increase production, causing more demand than supply. “Although crude topped $80 a barrel this month, the highest since 2014, Big Oil isn’t in a rush to ramp up production and meet the growing demand for gasoline, jet fuel, and natural gas sparked by a world venturing out after the worst of the pandemic.” ([Houston Chronicle, 10/29/21]

According to International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol, the price spike is a result of a myriad of factors, including demand growth, supply outages, and extremes-weather events, but also “the deliberate policies of energy producers.”

Despite the Biden administration’s urge for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to ramp up production, but corporations have so far shown no inclination to do so. Corporations are choosing to return cash to shareholders. As private oil producers have ramped up production and expanded rig fleets, publicly traded companies are “unwilling to budge from austerity programs popular with investors.”

Climate activists however say that the pressure shouldn’t be to increase production but to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Here is a breakdown of 24 top oil and gas companies and their profits for the first nine months of 2021:

Saudi Aramco $77,600,000,000

Shell $15,330,000,000

BP $10,767,000,000

ExxonMobil $14,372,000,000

Equinor $6,010,000,000

Enbridge* $17,646,137,200

Chevron $10,615,000,000

ConocoPhillips $5,470,000,000

TechnipFMC $222,600,000

Plains All American $147,000,000

APA Corporation $1,005,000,000

Ovintiv $32,000,000

Chesapeake Energy $321,300,000

Hess Corp $380,000,000

Devon Energy $1,313,000,000

Halliburton $648,000,000

Cabot Oil & Gas** $219,518,000

Marathon Oil $297,000,000

Noble Corporation $14,435,000

Pioneer $1,355,000,000

Marathon Petroleum $9,254,000,000

Occidental Petroleum $385,000,000

Phillips 66 $44,000,000

TC Energy $525,300,000

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