Posts tagged “windfall profits”
Unfair Profits or Lots of Volume?
Most people, if asked to name off the top of their head which industries were taking advantage of consumers to generate insanely high profits, would likely have the oil and gas industry at the top of their list. Isn’t it a well-known fact that with gas prices spiraling through the roof, “Big Oil” is by far the most profitable industry out there, hence they must be taking advantage of consumers?
Actually, it’s not that simple. But public opinion would have it otherwise.
In fact, industries such as internet information providers and personal computers rank well above major integrated oil and gas (Big Oil) when it comes to profit margins. The simple definition of profit margin is: A ratio of profitability calculated as net income divided by revenues, or net profits divided by sales. It measures how much out of every dollar of sales a company actually keeps in earnings.
As I noted in a previous essay, rising gas prices inevitably mean that our political leaders start looking to assign blame. The annual ritual has been to call the CEOs of the biggest oil companies in the U.S. to Washington so politicians can engage in a bit of political theater. The 2011 dog and pony show has now been scheduled: Oil-industry CEOs to get grilled by Congress At a Senate hearing, the CEOs will be pressed to explain why gasoline prices are so high — they average nearly $4 in most places and have topped $5 a gallon in few cities. Democrats are also planning to pressure the companies to renounce long-standing government subsidies totaling billions of dollars a year…. Continue»
It is no secret that consumers are suffering from very high gasoline prices. And as a result of these high prices, ExxonMobil just reported a first-quarter profit of $10.7 billion — 69 percent higher than a year ago. The national level of disgust and anger is approaching record levels as we watch the loss of our hard-earned dollars become Big Oil’s gain. The question is, what are we going to do about it? Before discussing how to deal with this, we should first discuss what it is that we are actually trying to do. I believe the very simplistic view is that by going after the oil companies, they are going to relent and lower gas prices. Thus, their profits… Continue»
Tis the season for Top 10 stories, and here are what I think were the Top 10 energy stories of the year. 1. Unprecedented volatility in the energy markets Oil prices raced to nearly $150 a barrel, and then fell to the $30′s by year end. This marks the highest ever prices for oil, followed by the lowest prices in four years. Gasoline, diesel, and natural gas prices demonstrated the same kind of volatility. There are multiple factors behind the volatility. The role of speculation was hotly debated, and the economic collapse – fueled by cash-strapped consumers who had overextended themselves – resulted in a sharp drop in demand. Some even argued that the real reason behind the plunge in… Continue»
It seems that President-elect Obama has had a change of heart on enacting a windfall profits tax on oil companies. That, among other things, is angering the liberal wing of the Democratic Party: Liberals voice concerns about Obama Here are the excerpts from the article specific to this issue: Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices. Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left. Obama drew rousing applause… Continue»
It seems that the Democrats have crafted a plan to “make America energy-independent of foreign oil within a decade:” Democrats are working on drilling bill WASHINGTON — Oil and natural gas producers might soon be able to drill in the eastern Gulf of Mexico as well as along the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Georgia under an energy plan being crafted by House Democrats. While details are still being worked out, the plan would raise taxes on the oil companies; force producers that benefited from botched lease agreements with the government to pay royalties; require electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from renewable sources; and provide loan guarantees to automakers to help produce more fuel-efficient cars. Pelosi… Continue»
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the latest attempt to pass a windfall profits tax on oil companies. You know, it isn’t the windfall profits tax itself that bugs me. It is the fact that it wouldn’t be applied consistently across industries, some of which have much higher profit margins. These measures would single out the oil industry for punitive measures, which just reinforces the image that oil companies are manned by people who like kicking puppies and pushing old people down stairs. I actually spent some time digging around in the legislation to understand how they were defining windfall profits, reasonable profits, and what exactly constitutes “gouging.” You might be surprised (and I explain below). One section… Continue»
Consumer advocate Tyson Slocum recently testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure about the record high gas prices. I am going to resist the urge to do a deep debunking, because 1). I have already taken a shot at his credibility; 2). I haven’t slept in 36 hours; 3). Maybe he’s got some good points? Here is a PDF of his testimony: Testimony of Tyson Slocum Among some of Slocum’s findings (and a “few” comments, since I can’t resist): Public Citizen research shows that oil companies aren’t adequately investing these record earnings into projects that will help consumers, as the five largest oil companies have spent $170 billion buying back their stock since 2005. I… Continue»
Regardless of your position on windfall profits taxes on oil companies, one thing has been demonstrated again and again. Governments consistently fail to accurately anticipate the consequences. As oil prices have increased, governments have seen tax revenues from oil and gas grow significantly. But they apparently believe they know how to deal with a goose that lays golden eggs: Take some food away from that corpulent goose, but expect it to keep laying golden eggs. The purpose for imposing windfall profits taxes is generally two-fold. First, a government can tell the citizens that despite their inability to control oil and gas prices, they are doing something by “punishing” the oil companies that benefit from these rising prices. Second, they genuinely… Continue»