Fossil fuel profits show corporate greed is to blame for oil and gas price surge

Fossil fuel behemoths Exxon, Chevron and Shell announced astounding earnings due to the year’s oil and gas price surge but very few Democrats have decried corporate greed as Republicans try to pin blame on them heading into midterm elections.

President Joe Biden’s decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is sparking debate about whether the plan will work and how it will influence the midterm elections.

Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. energy company, reported the highest profits in its 152-year history on Friday, when the oil and gas giant said adjusted third-quarter earnings were $18.7 billion, or $4.45 per share, on revenue of $112 billion.

Chevron on Friday reported its second-highest quarterly profit ever, driven by soaring oil and gas prices. Chevron posted earnings of $11.2 billion during the third quarter of 2021.

Gargantuan profits continue to roll in at London-based Shell, which reported a third-quarter profit of $9.45 billion and is well on track to exceed its record annual profit.

The three top oil companies have recorded $104 billion for the year to date, more than triple last year’s levels. 

Biden’s oil releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve may have knocked between 17 and 42 cents off the cost of a gallon of U.S. gasoline this year, according to analysts but progressive leaders are calling for a windfall profits tax that would return money to working class Americans instead of letting them get ripped off by greedy corporations.

“A windfall profits tax should be a short term relief measure,” said Lisa McCormick. “The only way to truly transform to a safe energy economy is to seriously discourage carbon-based fuel pollution is by encouraging investment in and the deployment of clean alternatives. Otherwise, oil companies will lie, cheat & steal to stay profitable.”

“The fossil fuel industry could take measures to mitigate climate change but devotes itself to the pursuit of short-term profit,” said McCormick, who encouraged citizens to: “Tell Congress to enact clean energy mandates, price controls & a windfall profits tax to rein in fossil fuel company greed.”

Energy prices are still high partly because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, moves by Saudi Arabia and its allies to cut back oil production and supply chain issues that linger from the coronavirus pandemic but corporate greed really pushed fuel prices to record levels.

“We don’t need to be suckers. Consumers are paying as Big Oil is gobbling up more than $100 billion in profits by doing nothing other than watching world prices soar due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The solution is simple: A windfall profits tax that extracts Big Oil’s unjust enrichment and returns the money to the people.”

“Let’s be clear: Booming oil and gas production and sky-high prices are driving inflation for ordinary people, and Big Oil executives are pocketing the profits. The cost of getting oil and gas out of the ground remains the same. Still, the price of gasoline, home heating and gas-fired electricity production have skyrocketed, allowing fossil fuel giants to virtually print money unchecked,” said Weissman.

“Fossil fuel giants are doing everything they can to ensure this situation lasts as long as possible. They’re ramping up oil and methane gas exports, driving up prices for U.S. consumers and further exposing us to international turmoil,” said Weissman. “They pretend that more drilling will help. But they know that starting exploration and drilling now will have no impact on supplies any time soon. And they know that more oil and gas drilled in the U.S. will be exported – and that does virtually nothing to lower prices for Americans.”

“It’s past time for Congress to put an end to this madness,” said Weissman. “A windfall profits tax with rebates to taxpayers would offset the pain at the pump and limit Big Oil’s egregious rip-offs. Even Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden, acknowledges that it makes sense for governments to tap the industry to aid struggling consumers.”

“Oil and gas executives, and lawmakers, should follow this rare bit of common sense from an executive at an industry that has done so much damage to our planet and consumers,” said Weissman.

Gasoline prices are a key driver of inflation, and the economy is at the top of voters’ minds.

In a poll of voters’ views going into the midterms conducted by the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of respondents said the economy is “very important,” more than any other topic including crime, foreign policy and immigration.

Another poll, from Monmouth University, said 34 percent of the public said recent increases in gas prices have caused a “great deal” of hardship. Gasoline prices also are higher than the national average in a number of battleground states that could influence who control’s the U.S. Senate and many governors’ mansions.

“The Saudis are working to get Trump reelected and for the MAGA Republicans to win the midterm elections,” said McCormick. “Why aren’t more Democrats screaming about fossil fuel industry greed?”

Just 20 fossil fuel companies are responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has triggered global warming, increasing the risk of floods, extreme rainfall, wildfires and heatwaves with devastating consequences for people, animals and the environment.

Our world is now about one degree Celsius hotter than in the pre-industrial period. The IPCC says a 1.5°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 2°C, most ecosystems will struggle.

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