Exxon: How much is too much?

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At the beginning of this month, Exxon/Mobil announced its profits for 2007. Being a good-hearted, eternally trusting sort, the kind of guy who believed in the Easter bunny until he was old enough to drive, I had hoped that Exxon might have made a tidy, respectable profit in 2007. After all, with gasoline prices soaring, unemployment on the rise, a recession looming on the horizon, and people paying record prices for heating oil, one would hope that an oil company might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of profit in return for a productive economy and a contented public. Only the most self-important, short-sighted "corporate partner" would use the current situation to gouge the consumer, right?

Did I mention that I believed in Santa until I reached the age of 21?

Well, I was really, really, really wrong. In 2007, Exxon netted profits of $40.6 billion, an increase of a little more than a billion dollars over 2006's revenues. According to The Washington Post, that amounts to earnings of $4.6 million per hour. It is also the largest yearly profit ever reported by a publically-traded company. Ever.

I pumped a lot of gas in 2007, so I have to wonder how much I contributed to Exxon's bottom line. For that matter, you might want to ask how much money it sucked out of your pocket as well. While we're on the subject, it's worth noting that, while Exxon's the biggest offender, it is not the only gas company to reap obscene profits from the gas crisis: the profits of the five largest international oil companies have tripled since 2002.

According to Exxon, last year's record earnings were the product of long-term investments and disciplined corporate stewardship. I, on the other hand, would attribute them to corporate profiteering and would liken Exxon's actions to the pirates who jerk up the price of penicillin during wartime.

Public transportation is looking better and better...

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.

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