The latest round of oil industry quarterly profits is trickling in. Once again, the oil industry is posting multi-billion dollar profits — much of that thanks to the high price that consumers are paying at the gas pump. Shell Oil saw an 11 percent jump in profits over this time last year, raking in $7.7 billion in just three months.
Their profits for the first quarter of 2012 are expected be more than $21 billion — nearly $10 million every hour in pure profit. Over the last decade, the oil industry has made more than $1 trillion. In the last year alone, the largest oil companies took home more than $137 billion in profits. Every time the price at the pump ticks up just a penny, another $200 million flows into the oil industry coffers.
These latest profits come on the heels of a vote in the Senate to repeal some of the tax breaks that the most profitable oil companies receive. These unnecessary tax breaks come at the expense of American taxpayers, who fund the subsidies and still pay at the pump. While a majority of the Senate voted to eliminate the tax breaks, the bill needed 60 votes — so the oil companies win again.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that the oil and gas industry has already given nearly $4 million to electoral campaigns in 2012 alone. That’s less than an hour of work to guarantee that their sweetheart tax breaks stay in place — not a bad return on investment. And it keeps paying off — there are several bills in Congress that hand over more land to the oil industry, including places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Despite their push to drill in the arctic tundra, though, oil companies are sitting on millions of acres of land they aren’t even using. Of the more than 38 million acres of federal lands leased out to the oil industry, more than 26 million acres are sitting idle. That’s an area the size of Ohio locked up by the oil industry, and not doing anything. On top of that, there are more than 7,000 drilling permits also going unused. For an industry that wants more, more, more, they certainly aren’t using what we’ve already given them.
While they’re hoarding land and permits, they aren’t shy about shipping the final product overseas. For the first time since the 1950s, we’re exporting more gasoline than we’re importing. This means that rather than keeping gasoline here in America and lowering the price for consumers, they’re selling it overseas for higher profits.
The oil industry clearly has its priority: profits. And they are doing good job getting them. But it is also clear that they don’t have the interests of American consumers, American lands and communities in mind. It’s time to stop coddling the oil industry, cut their subsidies, and quit handing them land and permits that they don’t need. It’s time to give the American people a break.
Photo credit: Paulo Ordoveza