"High prices for crude oil in 2004 and into 2005 have reduced consumers' purchasing power and raised costs for businesses while providing billions of dollars to the oil industry and oil exporting countries. The industry's increased revenues have led to record profit levels. As the 109th Congress engages in oversight of recent broad energy legislation which aims to increase the domestic supply of crude oil to mitigate oil price increases in the longer term, another key factor in determining increased supply is how oil companies decide to allocate their profits between shareholder returns and investment in oil production. This report is written in response to a number of requests from Congress concerning profits in the oil industry. This report provides background information concerning the level of oil industry profits, the sources of those profits, and a discussion of the potential uses of profits. In response to the increased price of crude oil since the fall of 2004, profits of virtually all firms in all segments of the oil industry have increased. However, the greatest increases have been in the downstream, or refining and marketing, segments of the industry. These increases in profit are apparent whether the major integrated oil companies, the independents, or refiners are considered, lending some credence to the viewpoint that industry profits are the result of factors beyond the elevated price of crude oil. Historically, the current combination of high oil prices and high profits have been seen before, and periods of low prices and profits tended to follow."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33021
United States. Department of State, Foreign Press Centers, Bureau of Public Affairs: http://www.fpc.state.gov/