Top Two Oil Companies Earn $160,000 Per Minute, Paid Low Tax Rate

The top two corporations on the Fortune 500 Global ranking, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil, announced their 2012 second-quarter earnings today, bringing the total profits for three Big Oil companies to $44 billion for 2012 or $250 million every day this year. Exxon profited by $16 billion this quarter, bringing its earnings for 2012 to $25 billion.

The New York Times wrote that Exxon and Shell’s earnings “disappoint,” because energy prices unexpectedly dropped for consumers this summer. Put their profits in the appropriate context, however, and Exxon and Shell still made a combined $160,000 per minute last quarter, even though the top five oil companies benefit from $2.4 billion federal tax breaks every year.

Below we look at what Exxon and Shell spends its earnings on:


— Exxon spent 42 percent — or $10.7 billion — of its 2012 profits buying back its stock, which enriches executives and largest shareholders.

— Exxon has spent $17 million lobbying for the past 18 months, making it the top spender in the oil and gas industry. It has spent more than $52 million lobbying for the first three years of the Obama presidency, 50 percent more than in the Bush administration.

— Exxon is sitting on $18 billion in cash reserves.

— Exxon send federal candidates $1.3 million in campaign contributions so far this campaign cycle, sending 91 percent to Republicans.

— Exxon paid just 13 percent in federal taxes last year, lower than the average American family. Right after Mitt Romney, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is the top recipient of Exxon federal contributions.

— Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson received $24.7 million total compensation.

Royal Dutch Shell:

— Shell will start drilling in the Arctic this summer, but its oil spill response plan is still behind schedule. It’s off to an inauspicious start in the Arctic, recently losing control of an Arctic drilling rig.

— Shell has spent nearly $22 million for the past 18 months, making it the second-biggest spender of the oil and gas industry.

— Shell has more than $17.3 billion in cash reserves.

— Shell bought back 15 percent of its second-quarter profits, or $900 million.

— Shell CEO Peter Voser’s compensation more than doubled in 2011 to $15.3 million. His salary increased (in euros) by 113 percent.

— In its annual report, Shell noted that the number of oil spills increased from 195 in 2010 to 207 during 2011.

While these companies already benefit from billions in tax breaks, Mitt Romney has offered the industry even more. A Center for American Progress Action analysis finds that Romney’s tax plan could lower five companies’ annual tax bill by another $2.3 billion, virtually doubling what they already receive in tax breaks.

Chevron and BP are the last two of the Big Oil companies to announce profits.

11 Responses to Top Two Oil Companies Earn $160,000 Per Minute, Paid Low Tax Rate

  1. Artful Dodger says:

    So, let’s get this straight: Big Oil is getting a 1,000:1 return in tax breaks for each $ donated to Congress? What a great deal for them! Too bad the poor didn’t have more money, then they could benefit from Society too…

  2. Jo says:

    And why is it again these mega-rich, mega-profits oil companies need OUR tax dollars in the form of tax breaks? Oh, wait…that’s right, they DON’T need them for any other reason than to fill their own coffers.

  3. Mike Curtis says:

    We shouldn’t beat up on “people” for skewering the entire planet and ensuring our future generations’ get bit parts in the Science Fiction Doomsday Chapter of the story of humanity, should we? They’re just regular folks like us!

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    Yes, these wealthy-beyond-belief companies are powerful- beyond-measure.

    Did you notice how little they have to spend lobbying to get so much in return?

  5. Mark Shapiro says:

    I forgot to mention — part of their power comes from me. I drive, plus I buy stuff that gets driven, and I pay taxes partly to fund the biggest fossil fuel user, the US Armed Forces.

    Sorry about that.

  6. Stella says:

    And how many jobs did they create (in the U.S.)?

  7. David Myhr says:

    What does it take to get the point across that CORPORATIONS ARE NOT TAXPAYERS, THEY ARE TAX COLLECTORS. Their sole source of money are their customers, you and me. So who pays the taxes?

  8. The fact that big oil has earnings at all, from their dirty work of exploitation of fossil fuels at the expense of planetary stability – that is what is disappointing.

    Pirates in pinstripes, and the Gray Lady can’t see it. Won’t see it, until it’s time to apologize again, for missing _another_ story of the decade.

    With the balance sheets of Big Oil loaded up with the value of more fossil fuel reserves than can ever be used, their financial statements are beyond suspect. Just waiting for another boot to drop.

  9. Brian Ford says:

    Agree with your comment – Everyone needs to read the article by Bill Mikibben in ROLLING STONE about the Math of Global Warming and the Fossil Fuel Industry. The article is frightening in its scientific data.

  10. Artful Dodger says:

    Their principle means of control over politicians is the implicit threat of funding the ‘other’ guy… step even a toe out of the party line, and we will bury you in attack ads.

  11. David Morgan says:

    Mark… I have good reason to believe that your tax money doesn’t find its way anywhere near the War Machine. I’m pretty certain that the entire gross amount of individual income taxes collected every year, barely puts a dent in the interest payment on the monies that the government owes to the Federal Reserve. (IOW, your tax money goes to JP Morgan. The gross amount of corporate income taxes collected, however, seems to very nearly identically match the National Defense Budget.