Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tell me again about not being gouged?

"Exxon's quarterly profit of $10.7 billion a record"

::::::::Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported a record quarterly profit of $10.7 billion yesterday, capping the most profitable year in U.S. corporate history.

The results pushed up Exxon's profit for the year to a record $36.13 billion -- bigger than the economies of 125 of the 184 countries ranked by the World Bank.

Tell me again how a company making 10 billion dollars in 90 days is only doing so-so. Or that they're really only making a reasonable profit. I'm still paying close to $2.50 a gallon for gas and these guys are pulling down $10 billion a quarter. What's wrong with this picture?

Don't get me wrong. I believe strongly in capitalism. What I don't believe in is gouging people unfairly. Decent profits I have no issue with. Profits as significant as those being posted by the oil companies recently aren't just the random fluctuations of market supply and demand. It's from charging a hell of a lot more per gallon of gas than it cost to produce it and, once you get past all the biz-speak smokescreen being put into the air over it, that's the reality of the situation. I'm not prepared to endorse a windfall profit tax - yet - but this isn't a situation where the market will simply adjust around. If we were talking about blue jeans and the price started spiking up, people would simply not buy them. There are alternatives to it, one of which is to simply do without for a while. Our mobile society has made it impossible to simply get by without buying gas. Even out here in Northern Virginia where we've made large investments in recent years in our public transit systems, the neighborhoods in which we live just don't allow people to get what they need without getting into a car. Checking out the price at the pump and saying, "forget it, I'll just walk" isn't an option here. It's not an option in a lot of the country.

That's why this situation requires more oversight than watching the price of blue jeans. I remain unconvinced that the prices aren't being "agreed to" by the refining companies nor am I confident that the refining capacity in this country isn't as low as it is due to some decision to make sure it stays that way. If someone wants an investigation on something, try starting there.