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Big oil, big taxes

The Senate debate on a bill to increase oil company taxes ended yesterday when supporters failed to get enough votes to continue. But the misinformation campaign rolls on.

By now it’s becoming all too familiar, especially since Politico and The New York Times published leaked talking points being used to counter critics who blame the administration’s energy policy for high gasoline prices.

The plan is to build support for increased oil company taxes by linking profits to consumers’ frustrations at the pumps over gasoline prices – which in reality have been driven higher by global oil prices.

The president even singled out ExxonMobil in a Rose Garden speech yesterday, saying that last year we “pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour” in profits.

 

 

Set aside for a moment that our company is owned by millions of shareholders, the overwhelming majority of whom live in the United States and benefit from our success through their 401Ks or public service pension plans. And that includes members of Congress.

Set aside the fact that less than 6 percent of ExxonMobil’s earnings in 2011 were from refining and selling gasoline and other products in the United States.

The reality is that statistics such as by-the-hour profits only tell part of the story. Consider if the president had added the following statistics: ExxonMobil’s taxes were $12.3 million an hour, and it took more than $47 million an hour to run the global business. Those statistics are also accurate and they put the $4.7 million an hour in profits in context.

For every dollar in revenue last year, we kept about 8.5 cents in profit. That’s right – 8.5 cents profit for every dollar of sales. Compare that to the profits of other industries, such as pharmaceuticals, financials and computer and smart-phone makers on a per-dollar-of-sales basis, and you’ll see that they earn two or three times as much on every dollar of sales.

I haven’t heard anyone talking about increasing taxes or eliminating standard tax deductions for companies in more profitable industries. Singling out just one industry – or worse, just one or two companies in the entire U.S. – for punitive tax increases using spin and hyperbole is not good tax, energy or economic policy.

Despite the rhetoric, it’s a fact that U.S. oil and natural gas companies are among the highest taxpayers in the United States. In 2011, ExxonMobil’s federal and state taxes totaled more than $1 billion a month as a result of our activities in the United States. That’s $12.3 billion in taxes on operating earnings of $9.6 billion in this country. That’s a fact, not spin.


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