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Big Oil’s Banner Quarter

Oct 28, 2022 Jordan Uhl
Oil and gas companies posted yet another quarter of record profits for the most recent quarter.
Big Oil’s Banner Quarter
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Three of the biggest oil and gas companies posted more than $40 billion in quarterly profits this week, as Americans’ pain at the pump from Big Oil’s price gouging continues to be a key factor in the election.

Such outsized profits suggest Democrats’ attempts to curtail Big Oil’s profiteering through rhetoric alone have failed, and that the pain of high gas prices and other financial hardships plaguing a majority of Americans will continue.

ExxonMobil posted its biggest quarter ever on Friday, with nearly $20 billion in earnings during the third quarter of this year. This was a 191 percent increase from the $6.75 billion it raked in during Q3 2021.

Chevron reported similarly robust results on Friday. The California-based oil giant’s third-quarter earnings of $11.2 billion were its second-highest quarterly returns ever, nearly double its earnings during Q3 2021.

On Thursday, Shell reported $9.5 billion in earnings over the last three months, more than double the $4.1 billion it earned during the same period last year. In its report to investors, the oil and gas giant announced a $4-billion round of stock buybacks, creating yet another windfall for investors and bringing its total buybacks this year to $18.5 billion.

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The Biden administration has made multiple attempts to convince Saudi Arabia, the leader of the OPEC+ oil cartel, to increase its oil production — as reduced, and especially artificially reduced, supply is partially driving price hikesto no avail. Instead, the Saudis made production cuts so deep it even took Russia by surprise.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden pleaded with Big Oil to decrease the price of gasoline, explicitly calling out their record profits. In an attempt to bring down costs, he also ordered the release of 15 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but they will not be available until December.

“In the second quarter of this year, profits at six of the largest publicly traded oil companies were more than $70 billion. That’s $70 billion in just one quarter — 90 days,” Biden said during a press conference. “So far, American oil companies are using that windfall — the windfall of profits to buy back their own stock, passing that money on to their shareholders, not to consumers.”

Exxon CEO Darren Wood mocked this sentiment ahead of his company’s earnings report.

“There has been discussion in the U.S. about our industry returning some of our profits directly to the American people,” said Woods. “That’s exactly what we’re doing in the form of our quarterly dividend.”

The world’s seven largest oil companies, collectively, have reported more than $170 billion in profits so far this year. The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is around $3.76 — down from its summer peak of over $5 per gallon, but still around 11 percent higher than this time last year.

Earlier this year, progressives in Congress introduced a bill to implement a windfall profits tax, which would potentially rein in some of the excessive profiteering by Big Oil on the backs of working Americans. Despite polling showing a majority of Americans support such a tax, the bill was met with stiff opposition from Republicans and has stalled in Congress.

Oil and gas PACs have already donated nearly $10 million to candidates this election cycle, with $7.8 million of that sum going to Republicans, according to data from OpenSecrets.

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