Exxon: How much is too much?

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.