As gas prices shot up in 2021, CEOs of major oil and gas corporations raked in millions, a new analysis reveals.
Compensation for Big Oil chief executives rose by nearly $45 million in 2021 over 2020 levels, a new analysis by Accountable.US shows, as first reported by the Guardian. In total, 28 large oil and gas corporations like Exxon and Shell gave $394 million to their CEOs last year.
CEOs like Marathon Petroleum’s Michael Hennigan and Exxon’s Darren Woods were exceptionally highly compensated, being paid over $20 million each while getting bonuses of $5 million and $7 million, respectively. Woods’s pay bump alone was 50 percent of his previous pay. Tracy Krohn, the CEO of W&T Offshore, an oil and fracked gas producer, made $4 million more last year — nearly three times his 2020 compensation.
On average, each CEO made $1.6 million more last year than they did in 2020. The bonuses for 14 CEOs alone totaled $31.8 million.
“While the wealthy CEOs further line their pockets, Americans are left to foot the bill as they are forced to make sacrifices to cover the high prices at the pump,” the report reads.
This massive raise came during a year that saw enormous spikes in gas prices, which corporations blamed on inflation. The average price per gallon for all grades of gas in 2021 was $3.10, according to the Energy Information Administration, far higher than the pre-pandemic average price of $2.69.
However, the new data suggests that high gas prices weren’t caused solely by inflation, but also by companies seeking to pump profits and executive salaries.
“Americans will not soon forget that when they were struggling to fill their tanks, oil and gas companies made billions in record profits and decided to give that money to wealthy industry executives and shareholders rather than help consumers by stabilizing gas prices,” said Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig in a statement.
“It’s time for Big Oil to stop lying about the Biden administration’s energy policies and quit using inflation and the crisis in Ukraine to cash in and line their pockets at our expense,” Herrig continued.
While conservatives and the oil and gas industry took advantage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to call for an increase in drilling, experts say that there’s little that increasing drilling could do to affect prices currently, and that such measures would be detrimental to the climate. Instead, gas prices have stayed high over the past months because the industry is paying out shareholders in spades, and Wall Street investors don’t want the high profits to stop.
The profits have indeed been high. Last month, Accountable.US found that 25 top oil and gas companies made a whopping $205 billion in profits last year as consumers struggled at the pump, with some families having to cut down on trips to run errands to save money. Executives at companies like Chevron and Shell said that 2021 was a banner year in terms of profits, and praised the high prices as a good thing for the companies.
“By the end of 2021, we had one of our most successful years ever with return on capital employed approaching 10 percent, our highest since 2014,” Chevron CEO Mike Wirth said in an earnings call earlier this year.
In response to what progressives are saying is corporate price gouging, lawmakers have introduced windfall profits bills to capture the high profits that oil and gas companies are currently raking in to discourage them from inflating prices; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) went a step further and introduced a bill that would capture 95 percent of windfall profits from not only the oil and gas industry but also corporations across sectors, like Amazon and Blackstone.