“This Is What Price-Gouging Looks Like”: Exxon Profits Break All-Time Records

On Friday, Exxon posted the highest quarterly profits ever posted by any U.S. oil company.

Exxon’s profit last quarter of $17.9 billion was the highest posted by any major international oil company in history. This quarter’s profits smashed that record, totalling $19.7 billion in the third quarter of this year, nearly triple what the company made over the same time period last year.

Other oil giants also posted record profits this quarter. Chevron posted its highest ever profits of $11.2 billion, nearly doubling profits from the same time last year. TotalEnergies doubled its profits, posting a net income of $9.9 billion, a record profit for the company.

Shell’s net income also multiplied from last year, reaching $9.45 billion, the corporation’s second-highest quarterly profits — afforded to them at least in part because of the company’s successful avoidance of paying a windfall tax that the U.K. has levied on them. The company also announced that it will be carrying out a $4 billion stock buyback plan because of the profits.

These profits come as gas prices have skyrocketed over the past two years. Gas prices reached a high this summer and have since cooled down slightly but remain high at a national average of $3.76 per gallon as of Friday, according to AAA.

Progressives and climate advocates have said that high gas prices are a direct result of price gouging by oil and gas companies — and that high inflation rates in general have been caused by corporate greed. Indeed, oil and gas companies have been experiencing a windfall that’s corresponded with all-time record profits for corporations this year.

Experts agree that current gas prices are greed-driven. While workers across the U.S. are struggling to even drive to work because of gas prices, oil and gas CEOs have been enjoying high gas prices, which give them the funds to shower their executives and shareholders with cash. As gas prices soared this summer, for instance, Exxon laid out plans for a $30 billion stock buyback program to enrich their shareholders.

“This is what price-gouging looks like,” the Institute for Policy Studies wrote on Twitter in reaction to news of Shell’s profits on Thursday. “Oil and gas companies won’t choose to stop exploiting people on their own — we need government action.”

Lawmakers have proposed levying a windfall tax on oil companies’ profits as they exploit global inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) went one step further in March, proposing that the U.S. levy a tax on all major corporations’ excess profits until 2024 in order to discourage them from price gouging. But these bills ultimately fizzled out, with conservatives like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) against the idea.

These record profits are alarming from a climate standpoint. More profits for oil companies only further entrench their position and power at a time when climate experts are warning that the world must draw down its use of fossil fuels immediately or risk pushing the planet ever further into climate catastrophe.