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Chevron earnings soar 49 percent

SAN RAMON, Calif - Chevron Corp.'s first-quarter profit soared 49 percent to $4 billion, joining the procession of U.S. oil companies to report colossal earnings as lawmakers consider ways to pacify motorists agitated about rising gas prices.

The San Ramon, Calif.-based company's net income, reported Friday, translated into $1.80 per share, two cents above the average estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Financial. It compared to a profit of $2.7 billion, or $1.28 per share, in the same January-March period last year.

Revenue totaled $54.6 billion, a 31 percent increase from $41.6 billion last year.

If not for continuing production problems caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last summer, Chevron said it would have made an additional $300 million - an amount that would have generated the highest quarterly profit in the company's 127-year history.

As it was, the performance marked the fourth consecutive quarter that Chevron has earned at least $3.6 billion as the company continued to capitalize on oil prices that have climbed above $70 per barrel since the first quarter ended.

The run-up recently has pushed gasoline prices above $3 per gallon, much to the frustration of consumers and politicians looking to win votes in an election year.

Chevron released its results after two of its biggest rivals, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., already provoked public outrage with similarly large first-quarter profits. Combined, the three oil companies earned $15.7 billion during the three months of the year.