Jan 29, 2012

Obama Calls for Ending Oil Subsidies

Perhaps I was the only person struck by President Obama's bold faced statement Weds night, calling for the end of US oil subsidies? It's not the first time he's suggested such a move 1, but in my humble estimation it's long overdue.

Obama, 1/25/12 (see full video here, 37:45 to 38:15):
"We've subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the tax payer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double down on the clean energy industry that rarely has been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits. Create these jobs."

According to the Financial Times Global 500, 2011, an index of the world's largest publicly traded companies, America's ExxonMobil is the world's #1 most profitable company. 2 America's oil production and equipment companies are doing remarkably well during this recession. Reading down the FT Global 500, 2011 list: Chevron is #9, Schlumberger (oil equipment & services) #41, ConocoPhillips #45, Occidental Petroleum #69, Apache #152, Haliburton (oil equipment & services) #176... you get the idea. 3

For reference sake, Apple is #3 on this list for 2011, with a market cap of $321 Billion. Goldman Sachs #74, with a market cap of $82 Billion. News Corp #171 with a market cap of about $47 Billion. Kellog's #478 with a market cap of about $20 Billion. And kudos to America's oil & gas companies -- who are doing MUCH better than in 2010 and previous years. Our top three oil producer/retailers have dramatically reduced their revenues yet increased their profits.

According to the Financial Times:
ExxonMobil, Irving, TX
2010: revenue $370.1 Billion; market cap $368.7 Billion
2011: revenue $341.5 Billion; market cap $417.1 Billion

Chevron, San Ramon, CA
2010: revenue $204.9 Billion; market cap $183.6 Billion
2011: revenue $189.6 Billion; market cap $215.7 Billion

ConocoPhillips, Houston, TX
2010: revenue $198.6 Billion; market cap $100.0 Billion
2011: revenue $176.9 Billion; market cap $114.1 Billion

Global Implications
To get a quick sense of how companies around the world stack up against each other I recommend Wikipedia's historical lists of the world's highest market cap companies. I know, I know, wikipedia right? (I happen to like Wikipedia's footnoting.) These lists are taken directly from the FT Global 500 1998 thru 2011. For 2010 six of the world's top 10 largest companies are in oil & gas, 10 of the world's top 25 are in oil & gas, and twenty five are in the world's top 100. 4

Speaking of big companies, what about big profits? The largest global/annual profit reports of all time (in real US Dollars, June 2011) as of Oct 2011, show ExxonMobil claiming the top four spots. (The four most profitable years ever in the history of the world. These guys are the champs.) From an American oil & gas perspective ExxonMobil has six of the top ten most profitable years ever, seven overall. Chevron has the 19th most profitable year. From a global perspective, eighteen of the 30 most profitable years for publicly traded companies in history belong to the oil & gas industry.

Back to Obama and US Oil Subsidies. The combined value of these world record years for Exxon and Chevron, alone, is $292.22 Billion in profit. By comparison, and as shown in a previous blog, Total US Oil Subsidies 1950-2010 was $369.00B. Since 1950 US tax payers have spent 44% of their energy subsidies on oil & gas ... the world's most profitable business sector.

Not much has been written or said about cutting oil subsidies in the US since Weds night. Weird. But the chief economist of the International Energy Agency announced about a week before Obama's speech he believes cutting global fossil fuel subsidization would halve total global greenhouse gas emissions. According to that guy -- the world's coal, oil, and gas (i.e. natural gas & gasoline) companies rec'v an average over $400 Billion "assistance" from our governments every year.


1. "It's not the first time Obama's suggested..." My quick googling shows O has been on this since at least April 2011: Obama video, Boxer support, NYTimes, etc.
2. "ExxonMobil world's most profitable (public) company..." The Financial Times 2006 list of state-owned companies, shows 9 of the top 10 to be in Oil & Gas. Saudi Aramco's market cap at that time was $781 Billion (3/4's of a Trillion $). Source

3. Here's the rest of the American oil & gas production and service companies from the 2011 largest global companies: Anadarko #192, Devon Energy #208, Marathon Oil #220, National OIl Well Varco #262, EOG Resources #275, Hess #314, Cheasepeake Energy #419.  
4. "Global Implications..." The FT Global 500 2011 list shows 50 oil & gas companies in the world's largest 500. 

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