"The five major integrated oil companies operating in the U.S. market have earned net incomes totaling $308 billion since 2004. In the previous four years, from 2000 to 2003, they earned net incomes of $171 billion. This 80% increase in profit has attracted public attention and raised the issue of whether 'windfall' profits had accrued to the firms. At the same time that these oil companies were earning increased profits, U.S. gasoline consumers were facing prices that rose above $3.00 per gallon, raising concerns that the increased profits might be tied to 'price gouging' by the oil companies. This report analyzes the uses of accrued profits by the five major integrated oil companies from 2004 through 2006. Although the oil industry is composed of thousands of firms involved in many different aspects of the business, these five firms represent the visible face of the oil industry to the American public. These companies also earned 90% of the total earnings of integrated oil companies, and 74% of the earnings of all the integrated oil companies, the independent oil and gas producers, and the independent refiners and marketers in 2006. Because of their size, the decisions they make with respect to utilizing profits will largely determine how the industry's use of profit is viewed by the public."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34044
U.S. Dept. of State, Foreign Press Centers: http://www.fpc.state.gov/