Joe Biden condemns excessive profits, without being able to do much about it

Record smashed. In 2022, the American oil major ExxonMobil recorded 56 billion dollars in profits (52.6 billion euros) thanks to the surge in prices caused by the war in Ukraine, an amount well above the 45 billion in 2008. revenge for the distant heiress of the Rockefeller empire, who had been kicked out of the Dow Jones index in 2020, on the pretext that her future was behind her. Chevron, for its part, made $35.5 billion in profits and the oil industry is jubilant.

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This situation was sharply denounced by Democratic President Joe Biden. “You may have noticed that ‘Big Oil’ just reported record profits. [En 2022]they [ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell et TotalEnergies] made $200 billion in the midst of a global energy crisis. It’s scandalous “he launched during his speech on the state of the Union, Tuesday, February 7.

“They invested too little of that profit to increase domestic production and keep gasoline prices low. Instead, they used those record profits to buy back their own shares, rewarding their CEOs and shareholders.”continued the White House tenant, who offered “to quadruple the tax on the redemption of shares of companies [actuellement de 1 %] to encourage long-term investment instead. “They will still make a considerable profit. »

This proposal, which was not adopted when the Democrats controlled the two houses of Congress, has little chance of succeeding with a House of Representatives now in the hands of the Republicans. Nevertheless, it raises several questions in the specific case of oil.

The war in Ukraine has radically changed the situation

First, the stock market price of oil tankers fell by 40% between 2014 and 2020, due in particular to overinvestment which, according to the CNBC television channel, has caused them to lose $280 billion since the discovery of shale oil in 2008. When the Covid-19 crisis broke out, the industry was devastated and its strategy, imposed by Wall Street, very simple: it was necessary to collect the oil profits, distribute them to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks, to allow the market to invest in other sectors. This is basically what climate advocates also want, who are demanding a divestment in fossil fuels.

Oil companies are reluctant to invest in the very long term, fearing the return of ultra-constraining climate regulations that would ruin their investments

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