Riding on the wave of sky-high gas prices and industry-wide price hikes, oil giant Exxon was handed the highest profits ever reported by a western oil company in 2022, its latest financial report reveals.
The company reported on Tuesday that it made a net profit of $55.7 billion in 2022, roughly 2.5 times its 2021 profits of $23.6 billion. This represents $6.3 million in profits per hour on average last year, Reuters pointed out.
This doesn’t just break the record for yearly profits for a western oil company, it completely crushes the previous record. Last year’s profits surpass the previous high, set by Exxon in 2008, by over $10 billion.
Exxon’s profits come at the expense of the public not just because of the literal expenses at the gas pump but also because of the company’s role in advancing and denying the existence of the climate crisis with its fossil fuel products, which are steadily eroding the livability of the planet.
Fossil Free Media Director Jamie Henn said that Exxon’s profits are especially egregious when put in context with their role in helping Russia’s oil and gas industry to be a large player in the world’s energy market, which combined with the country’s invasion of Ukraine has also played a part in causing gas prices to soar.
“This year’s profits are really beyond the pale,” Henn told Truthout via email. “Exxon’s profits are particularly galling because they’re profiting off a crisis they helped create. Exxon worked with [Vladimir] Putin for decades to expand Russian oil and gas production, so much so that Putin awarded Exxon’s former CEO Rex Tillerson a ‘medal of friendship.’”
“Add to that the report that came out this month about how back in the 1970s Exxon predicted with pinpoint accuracy the climate catastrophe we’re now experiencing, and you start to see exactly what a criminal enterprise this company is engaged in,” Henn continued. “It’s robbery on a planetary scale.”
Other oil giants also posted extreme increases in their profits last year, gathered in large part due to soaring gas prices that drained Americans’ wallets as they were also hit by inflation in nearly every other sector. Marathon Petroleum and Phillips 66 posted profits totalling nearly $25 billion, with Marathon enjoying a 46 percent year-over-year increase while Phillips multiplied its 2021 profits by 3.5 times.
Altogether the three oil majors that posted profits on Tuesday raked in over $82.5 billion in profits in 2022, in large part off of the backs of the public. The companies also revealed in earnings calls that they had spent $46.6 billion on stock buybacks and dividends in 2022, per Accountable.US, handing piles of cash to their shareholders and executives as the working class suffered.
Chevron also reported record profits in its quarterly report posted on Friday, which showed that the company doubled its profits last year, gathering $36.5 billion in profits. The company also announced last week that it is tripling its stock buyback program to an eye-popping $75 billion, one of the largest stock buyback plans ever carried out.
These profits come as a result of oil and gas companies’ decades-long strategies to deny the existence of the climate crisis and delay action to draw down fossil fuels. Oil and gas companies have known internally for decades that reliance on fossil fuels would cause major climate destruction, threatening millions if not billions of human lives, but have spent decades covering it up and persuading politicians to let them continue the industry’s grip on the global energy market.
Climate advocates like Henn have called for a windfall tax on Big Oil in response to what they say is price gouging. They say that such a tax would discourage oil companies from arbitrarily inflating prices while putting money back in the pockets of the public.
“Big Oil has imposed a private tax on the American people — to the tune of more than $90 billion from just two companies alone,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman in a statement. “This industry is out of control. Big Oil is price gouging us to record profits while destroying the ability of future generations to live on our planet. Meanwhile, consumers spent last year paying high prices to put fuel in their cars and are spending more to heat and power their homes this winter.”
Last fall, President Joe Biden threatened oil companies with a windfall tax to capture their excess profits if gas prices continued to stay high, as they had nearly all year. Gas prices did indeed decrease slightly then, but started rising again this month and could continue surging to over $4 a gallon by this spring, analysts say. These price increases are happening alongside Republican moves to even further limit the government’s ability to ease gas prices as the party has taken over control of the House.
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