While you're standing at the gas pump, watching the pennies on the meter whiz by and lamenting another $40 fillup, the folks at Exxon Mobil are dancing the jig at their Irving, Texas, headquarters.
That's because for every minute you stood there gassing up your vehicle, the folks at Exxon made $75,000. That's right, $75,000 per minute ... or $1,250 per second ... or $108 million per day.
Timing is everything in the oil business, and times have never been better. The uncertainty of the post-Sept. 11 era combined with Hurricane Katrina and the everlasting unrest in the oil-rich Mideast thrust Exxon to a record profit of $39.5 billion in 2006. That figure eclipses the previous record set in 2005 when company profits topped $36 billion - 10 percent growth.
But let's not just pick on the Exxon people. Last week, ConocoPhillips reported a $15.5 billion profit that topped its 2005 record of $2 billion. Chevron also broke its previous high mark with earnings of $17.1 billion, $3 billion more than 2005.
Meanwhile, the tank that used to take $25 to fill not all that long ago, now requires $40. But we've been conditioned to be happy with rising and falling gas prices. Like Pavlov's dogs, when the price drops under $2, we begin to salivate. Motorists are almost giddy as they pull into a station advertising regular unleaded for $1.88 per gallon.
So the gas shortage and $4 per gallon prices that washed over us following Katrina did their jobs. We pay two bucks a gallon and say, "Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
The faux euphoria loses luster, however, in light of the oilers' recent profit announcements.
Most Americans understand the effects war, world politics and the weather have on the laws of supply and demand. And we don't mind the pain for these reasons. But when the oil companies roll in unbridled profits, it's clear we're being bamboozled.
America will be a better, stronger nation as we become less dependent on foreign oil. It will not only free us from the whim of the Arab oil sheiks, it will also free us from the greed of the American oil baron.
After all, in the time you took to read these thoughts, Exxon made another $110,000. Have any thoughts about this editorial? Share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters should be no more than 200 words and are subject to approval by the publisher. Letters may be edited for style and space requirements. Please sign your name and provide an address and a daytime telephone number. Address letters for publication to: Letters to the Editor, Gwinnett Daily Post, P.O. Box 603, Lawrenceville, GA 30046-0603. The fax number is 770-339-8081.