Tax moves to make in May 2011
Deficit reduction plan includes gold heist

Will big oil profits mean big oil tax hikes? By the Numbers: $36.5 billion

First quarter 2011 profit reports are in for Big Oil and the numbers are impressive, astounding or obscene. Pick your adjective(s) based on your political position when it comes to corporations and taxes.

The bottom line is that for the first three months of the year, the major oil companies' profits totaled $36.5 billion.

And that is this week's By the Numbers figure:

36-point-5 billion oil industry profits 1q2011 (2)

The big gainer was ExxonMobil, with a 69 percent increase in its first quarter profits.

Even BP, which took some financial hits when one of its wells flooded the Gulf of Mexico with oil last year, reported $5.5 billion in profits. True, that's 2 percent less in profits for BP than in the same pre-oil-spill period last year, but few companies would call $5.5 billion a bad return.

Here's how the major oil companies' books looked, listed in order of profits, for January through March:

Oil Industry 2011 First Quarter Profits
Company Profits in Billions
Exxon/Mobil         $10.7
Shell         $6.9
Chevron     $6.2
BP $5.5
Total $4.2
Conoco $3.0
Total First Quarter 2011 Profits $36.5

These numbers explain why even Republican Reps. John Boehner, Speaker of the House, and House Budgt Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, seemed to be tempted, albeit temporarily, to increase taxes on oil companies.

While those two GOP leaders have backtracked, Obama is pushing ahead on the possibility of more revenue from Big Oil.

In his regular Saturday morning radio/Internet address, the prez called on Congress to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

"These tax giveaways aren't right," Obama said. "They aren't smart. And we need to end them."

Blowing in the windfall profits: This so-called windfall profits tax crops up periodically, every time the oil industry turns a nice profit. Often, that happens to be when pump prices are going up, although the two aren't necessarily connected.

And aside from helping bring down the deficit, higher oil company taxes probably won't help consumers.

In fact, some folks argue that increased company taxes could actually cost drivers more, as the oil companies would be tempted to pass their tax costs along to consumers.

But the convergence of a growing federal deficit, ginormous oil company profits, higher gasoline prices and an economy in which most folks are scraping for every possible penny make for perfect political fodder.

So while a windfall profits tax is not that likely right now, expect oil industry earnings and tax breaks to be part of the deficit and tax discussion, for at least campaign if not actual fiscal purposes.

Related posts:

Want to tell your friends about this blog post? Check out the buttons -- Tweet This, Reblog, Like, Digg This and more -- at the bottom of this post. Or you can use the Share This icon to spread the word via e-mail and online avenues. Thanks!


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.