Billions in Big Oil Profits Mean Some Workers Can’t Afford Gas

by Tula Connell


Next time you watch your hard-earned dollars roll out of your wallet at the gas pump, imagine how much easier it would be just to hand the cash directly to Big Oil CEOs. That’s pretty much what’s happening anyway, as indicated by Big Oil’s second quarter profits.

Today, ExxonMobil announced it raked in $10.36 billion in the second quarter, the second largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company. ConocoPhillips CEOs also are smiling: ConocoPhillips’ profits are up 65 percent from a year ago. Meanwhile, BP’s profits rose 30 percent above last year.

So what if gas prices were $2.14 a gallon a year ago but now average $3?

So what if the Bush administration said the war in Iraq would pay for itself with cheap oil?

So what if, according to Think Progress, Congress, one year ago today, finalized the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which lavished $14.5 billion in tax breaks on energy firms, nearly 60 percent of which went to "oil, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and nuclear power."

We all can rest assured the money we spend on gas is going to a good cause: Massive pay packages and retirement benefits for Big Oil CEOs.

Earlier this month, AFL-CIO PayWatch found that ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond leads the pack of all CEOs in all U.S. industries when it comes to collecting the cushiest retirement. Raymond stands to collect more than $8 million a year in retirement. According to The New York Times, Raymond raked in more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005 ($144,573 for each day he headed the company).

ExxonMobil’s profits don’t "trickle down" to its non-executive employees, though. Of all the biggest U.S. corporations, ExxonMobil has the largest funding deficit in its employee pension, according to BusinessWeek. ExxonMobil’s assets are $11.2 billion short of its projected obligations, according to company figures as of Dec. 31.

ExxonMobil, with $27 billion in its coffers, could write a check for its underfunding this afternoon. Meanwhile, Raymond’s total compensation package was short just $49 million.

Earlier this summer, union activists rallied at the White House and at congressional district offices across the nation, protesting the Bush administration’s cozy relationship with Big Oil and its out-of-touch disconnect with the pain of working families forced to shell out $50, $75 or more.

The Republican-led Congress also is out of touch. For the past 10 years, Republicans have blocked any increases in the $5.15-an-hour federal minimum wage. But if a minimum wage worker needs gas to get to work, a $60 fill-up translates into more than 11.5 hours of work, about a day-and-a-half’s wages.

And no retirement package.