Update! Tyson Slocum testifies before the House on gasoline prices. See his testimony here.
Since George Bush became President in 2001, the top five oil companies in the United States have recorded profits of $464 billion through the first quarter of 2007:
ExxonMobil: $158.5 billion
Shell: $108.5 billion
BP: $89.2 billion
ChevronTexaco: $60.9 billion
ConocoPhillips: $46.9 billion
Many industry analysts claim that rising demand in China and India are the big reasons why the price of oil exceeds $60 a barrel. However, they neglect to mention the role U.S. demand plays in setting global crude oil prices. Americans consume 25% of the world's oil every day (see chart comparing global oil consumption). China, the next biggest consumer, uses less than 7% of the world's oil each day. America's huge appetite for oil combined with the fact that the United States is the world's third largest producer of it (only Saudi Arabia and Russia produce more than we do) creates a strong argument that the United States holds a lot of sway over world oil prices.
The energy bill that President Bush signed in 2005 does nothing to address the U.S. factors that are driving oil and gas prices to record highs. Congress and the White House explicitly rejected efforts to improve fuel economy standards for our cars and trucks (which account for 60% of our oil consumption) or adequately fund fossil fuel alternatives.
The oil companies don't mind. Since Bush became President, the largest five oil companies operating in the US - ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, BP and Shell - have enjoyed profits of $464 billion, with ExxonMobil leading the way with profits of $158.5 billion.
Meanwhile, gas prices continue to go up up up - and no oil company is reinvesting their profits into the things that will benefit motorists. For example, in 2006 ExxonMobil spent $37.2 buying back its stock and paying dividends - at the same time, the company spent only $3.3 billion on capital investment in the U.S. So there is a direct correlation between record prices paid by consumers and record profits enjoyed by oil companies. As Americans shell out more dollars at the pump, the profit margin by U.S. oil refiners has shot up 158% since 1999 (the year Exxon and Mobil merged).
For more background information, click here.