climate crisis Mitchell Beer

Big Oil and Gas Reap Record Profits as the World Burns

In what is already shaping up to be the fifth hottest year on record, the world’s biggest fossil companies' profits hit a 14-year high.
[Alisdare Hickson / CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Mitchell Beer | The Energy Mix

Skyrocketing fuel costs and high margins on oil refining are driving the world’s biggest fossil companies to their biggest profits since at least 2008, according to analysis released just days after a blockbuster report that showed the oil and gas industry taking home $2.8 billion per day in revenue over the last 50 years.

The five biggest publicly-trade fossils—ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, TotalÉnergies, and BP—“are set to make even more money than they did in 2008, when international oil prices jumped as high as US$147 a barrel,” Bloomberg Markets reports. “That’s because it’s not just crude that has soared during the crisis created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, natural gas prices and refining margins have also broken records.”

The news report cites Exxon profits rising 46% this year. Total has gone up a relatively modest 11%, but that’s still at a time when the wider Standard & Poor’s stock index is down 17%. The general trend recently had U.S. President Joe Biden complaining that Exxon makes “more money than god” and accusing fossil companies of exploiting high gas prices, Bloomberg recalls. The UK recently imposed a 25% levy on oil and gas profits, albeit with a side deal that offered tax incentives for new oil extraction.

Just a week ago, citing research by University of Antwerp energy economist Aviel Verbruggen based on World Bank data, the Guardian said Big Oil has pocketed a mind-bending $52 trillion in profits since 1970. “You can buy every politician, every system with all this money, and I think this happened,” Verbruggen said, contending that the trillions in profits pocketed by Big Oil since the 1970s have been weaponized to maintain the fossil status quo.

But even if this year’s results are reinforcing the trend, fossil CEOs are talking down investors’ hopes for the high returns they’ve typically expected on their oil and gas investments, Bloomberg says. “The soaring earnings are a direct result of the high energy prices that have stoked inflation, piled pressure on consumers, raised the risk of recession, and prompted calls for windfall taxes,” the more recent news story states. “Amid this political and economic turbulence, shareholders may have to temper their expectations for rising returns.”

Part of that caution is a sense that today’s industry profit margins can’t last. Refining now makes up 26% of the sky-high cost of gasoline in the United States, compared to an average of 14% over the last decade, and Bloomberg says Shell is expecting $1 billion in profit from its global refining operations alone. But with consumers hurting, analysts are watching for gasoline demand to dampen and drive down prices.

As a result, at least some of the top five fossils look unlikely to hand investors the higher returns they crave. The news agency says Exxon will use its winnings to pay off some of its debts, while Chevron may speed up a program to buy back shares from shareholders.

The numbers also indicate that fossil companies won’t be directing their profits to new exploration or extraction projects. Although capital expenditures may soon be driven up by inflation, colossal fossils are generally “spending much less than they did the last time oil was above $100 a barrel,” Bloomberg says. “Capital expenditures is creeping to a forecast of $80 billion this year, but that’s half the level of 2013.”

6 comments

  1. In the “Democratic” UK, our 2 Tory Candidates for Prime Minister/ Tory Leader ,say “Now, is NOT the time for a Energy Company “Windfall Tax”. Next January our Energy Bills will top
    £3,800. Shell, BP etc are making Billions in Profits. For their Shareholders and CEOs. But they are NOT Reducing our Energy Bills.Robbing the UK Poor to Enrich the Rich.

  2. Fun stuff, this dead end story that is GroundHog Day, once again.No call to action, no citing revolutionaries, no citing those who can easily list all those externalities of how these hydrocarbon thieves get money on top of military protection on top of tax breaks on top of free passes on pollution and death.

    Get with the program — cite authors and sociologists and others who might be able to parse why AmeriKKKans are not out on the streets, daily, no?

    Big Pharma and the planned pandemic and the amazing bioweapons SARS-2 and then the mRNA bioweapon 3, and then, well, MoneyPox x and y, and the lockdowns, the forced poisoning of college students now with booster number 666?

    These are war profiteers, to the max. And the four skirt-wearing CEOs of the offensive murderous military companies and then the other Top 40 bomb-missile-plane-drone-chemical spore companies, and then the surveillence queens and kings, that we are not on the streets demanding an end to Republican psychos and Democrat psychos, and well, how is that working out in Kentucky, in New Mexico, all those drought states, those trillions to Ukraine, Israel, Saudi . . . . etc.?

    So, Sheer Post is just that old time religion aggregator of some putridity, and superficiality. No big stories citing people with enough guts to attack the criminality of Democrats, Republicans, the MIC, et al.

    Broken brains and spineless spines.

  3. Within 50 to 100 years fossil fuels will run out. Unfortunately the energy returned on energy invested is highest with fossil fuels. Mining requires diesel fuel to power its huge machines and trucks, and steel making, glass production, silicon chip manufacture and many other processes require high heat for production; electricity alone cannot provide the energy required. Beside that, artificial fertilizer provides food for 4 billion people. Traditional adjuvant methods cannot substitute for artificial fertilizer. Natural gas provides the feedstock for that production.

    1. peak oil hysterics proven wrong—in the past 10 years new oil/gas fields discovered Iran, Qatar, Russia, Black Sea—crimea/Turkey, Israel/lebanon, Argentina, Mexico, Angola, Nigeria, Indonesia, Mozambique, etc; arctic is believed to possesses huge reserves

  4. Yes, Big Oil is effin us, but here’s how we can eff them and recapture some possibility of overcoming not just big oil but big Pharma, big “Merchants of Death” weapons makers, Big Tech’s Disinformation scam-artists, and all of the billionaires — who only produce ‘faux-profits’ by pumping and ‘dumping’ their hidden ‘Negative Externality Costs’ — which only ‘we the people’ can change the socio-political economic system back to democracy instead of a totally crooked and criminal system of Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Racist Propagandist Criminal Ecocidal Child-Killing & War-Starting EMPIRE, controlled by the ‘Ruling-Elite’, UHNWI, <0.003%ers, TCCers, arrogantly self-appointed "Masters of the Universe", and "Evil (not-so) Geniuses" [Kurt Andersen] — which hides Empire behind their totally corrupted dual-party Vichy-facade of faux-democracy.

    STRATEGY!!!!! NOT MONEY —— wins elections — and the most important thing is that you won’t have to LIE, by not saying anything about this effin EMPIRE being the SEMINAL CAUSE OF ALL ‘ISSUES'

    Since the current dual-party system has imploded into a virtual ‘fixed’ Empire, we should shift to a new two-party system — with the current right of center, corporate Democratic Party, being replaced by a new and true, left of center Social Democratic Party — which raises the question of what to do with the BOP Republican Party?

    As all our founders understood from their ‘deep reading’ of Roman history, “The disease of Republics is Empire”, so the current non-functional Empire-diseased Party should be removed — as should be done with any cancer, and the political system should be cured into a truly modern and healthy Social Democratic Party, as should have been done 78 years ago, in 1944, near the certain end of the Second World War of Empires, when FDR’s brilliant VP, socially responsible Democrat, Henry Wallace, was the first-round 60%+ winner at the Democratic Party Convention.

    While history was retarded for those past 78 years, it doesn’t mean that ‘we the American people’ should have to wait another 78 years, until the year 2100 — to get out from under the oppression and lies of living under a virtual Disguised Global Crony Capitalist Racist Propagandist Criminal Ecocidal and ‘War-Starting’ EMPIRE.

    What’s the only difference between our dual-party Vichy-facade of faux-democracy and the Taliban?

    Superior Propaganda and the ability to consistently PING PONG back and forth between these two effin crooked corrupt and “Quiet American” EMPIRE Parties.

    Christopher, Ralph, Bernie, AOC, et. al.— I can tell that you are really and justifiably raging that $50B, $100B, and even over $800B of ‘give away’ money to this damned socio-political and economic ’System’ is being squandered. When monies are so desperately needed for our people and our world.

    But, HEY,, —— you just gotta WAKE-UP to the FACT and understand that this SYSTEM is an EMPIRE. OPEN your eyes and nose and SEE and SMELL the stinkin’ EMPIRE:

    Just Wake-Up to the EMPIRE — and we all can put EMPIRE in an eternal grave.

  5. BP effed over Louisiana in the aftermath of its Deepwater Horizon spill and debacle. They cheated local fisherman and tricked them into helping with BPs’s clean up, in many cases for next to no compensation. Kenneth Feinberg was a willing accomplice in that swindle. Shame on all those bastards.

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