# No oil tax?

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russ_watters
Mentor
That is still governed by supply and demand - ie. the price at the pump. Go ahead Exxon, raise the price artificially. BP will gladly take the business.
Haven't you ever asked yourself why, if that was true, did all the oil companies earn record profits last year? BP and Exxon determined through competition what markups they were willing to live with and when the price doubled, the profit doubled (actually, more than doubled since the fixed costs did not change). There is no reason for either of them to change their markup in that kind of situation. If you add a new tax, it does not affect supply and demand at all, it only effects profit. So both can simply pass the cost on to the consumer, and the competitive situation remains unchanged.

And no, BP cannot take the business. Supply and demand for oil are both very tightly constrained. BP could not siply undercut Exxon's price and take all of their business - they'd have to first spend billions of dollars for years to build the infrastructure. So if BP undercuts Exxon's price and runs out of gas because they can't meet the new demand, what does that mean? It means they could have charged more for the same amount of gas.

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russ_watters
Mentor
Another thing about oil company profits: their margins are pretty thin relative to other businesses. But they get a lot of press because the companies are truly enormous. So the profit numbers look big even though they are not relative to other businesses.

russ_watters
Mentor
More: The oil market is more complicated than the simplistic examples I gave. Here's a good faq: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/2571 [Broken]

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Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Haven't you ever asked yourself why, if that was true, did all the oil companies earn record profits last year?

Price was driven by speculation in oil futures - betting on future supply and demand. The hyperinflation of crude prices was completely artificial. And it had nothing to do with the operating costs of the company. But it was caused by speculators, not oil executives, so it was still a function of supply and demand.

Consumers could care less about constraints. If gas station A has cheaper fuel than station B, I will likely go to station A.

We often used to see price wars between stations, and we still do at times, so there is genuine price competition. Also, if one company's price is artificially high, there is more than one company to take up the slack. Exxon doesn't want to lose 5% of their business, so they remain price competitive.

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Consumers could care less about constraints. If gas station A has cheaper fuel than station B, I will likely go to station A.

We often used to see price wars between stations, and we still do at times, so there is genuine price competition. Also, if one company's price is artificially high, there is more than one company to take up the slack. Exxon doesn't want to lose 5% of their business, so they remain price competitive.

According to what I have read on Snopes, in their article on the fallacy of gas station boycots, oil companies that are unable to sell their own oil (as gasoline) will then turn around and sell their excess to other companies who are in need of more oil to keep up with demand. Taking advantage of the problem of production vs demand they protect themselves in this way from market shifts at the pump. The gas stations themselves don't make much money from gasoline anyway.

Supercritical
ExxonMobil Q4 2008 (source)
Net Profit: $7.82 billion Revenue:$84.696 billion
Profit Margin: 9.23%

Profit Margins from previous quarters (from Yahoo Finance and Exxon's investor reports):
Q3 08: 10.77%
Q2 08: 8.46%
Q1 08: 9.32%
Q4 07: 10.00%
Q3 07: 9.20%
Q2 07: 10.43%
Q1 07: 10.64%
Q4 06: 11.39%
Q3 06: 10.53%
Q2 06: 10.46%
Q1 06: 9.44%

It's interesting to note that many media outlets including the NYTimes reported the profit drop of 33% in terms of the current economic crisis, as though "the once high-flying oil sector is scrambling to adjust to a sharp downturn."

On the contrary, while oil prices varied from $60 to$140 and back to $40/barrel during the past 3 years, Exxon's profit margin remained in the range of 9-11%. I think there's a lot of misplaced anger toward ExxonMobil, but it's died off substantially now that a gallon of gas is cheaper. Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member Where are you getting your data. I don't see it. I did see this: Net income (U.S. GAAP) 4th qtr 08 7,820 3rd qtr 08 14,830 2nd qtr 08 11,680 1st qtr 08 10,890 4th qtr 07 11,660 http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/Files/news_release_supp4q08.pdf [Broken] Beyond that, it was public information that Exxon made greater profits recently than any company in history. Last edited by a moderator: Supercritical It's located about halfway down the page on each report (Q4 08 report). It's true that ExxonMobil has set records for profits in terms of dollar amounts (although I haven't read if the all-time record is adjusted for inflation). However, China eats the most food in the world in terms of tonnage (speculative), but nobody says they eat too much. The point being: ratios and proportions tell more of the story. For instance, for the year 2007 Coca Cola made$5.98 billion profit on \$28.9 billion revenue, amounting to a 20.73% profit margin. This means that if Coca Cola had generated the same amount of revenue as ExxonMobil did, Coca Cola would have raked in roughly twice the profit (assuming everything scaled).

In Exxon's case, it just so happens that businesses that are more profitable (pharmaceuticals, for instance) don't have the revenue/sales volume that Exxon has; and those giants that are less profitable (Wal Mart, as an example) don't have the sales to top Exxon's profits either.

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