Oil companies see profits soar - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Oil companies see profits soar

(Columbia) October 27, 2005 - Prices at the pump have hit many drivers where it hurts: in the wallet. But your pain has not come without some benefit. Business is apparently good for the oil companies.

This week, oil companies are releasing their profits for the third quarter, and July, August and September have been record breaking months.

Thursday morning, Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil producer, announced profits of $9.2 billion, up 75 percent. Shell had profits of $9 billion, that's up 68 percent. And Conoco-Phillips saw profits of $3.8 billion, up 89 percent. Amerada Hess is reporting $235 million, that's up 53 percent. Murphy Oil claims a 95% increase, up by $231 million.

The record profits were fueled by record high crude oil prices and came despite supply disruptions and damage caused by hurricanes in the Gulf region.

We caught up with some of your neighbors to hear some of their thoughts.

"As a citizen, it makes me feel sad," Marhall Gamill from West Columbia explained.

Stephanie Bonkowski said, "I'm a little frustrated. I'm paying a ridiculous amount of money and they're making a lot of money off of me."

Columbia resident Yvette Battle agrees. "My first reaction is that's a crime. I feel like I've just been taken advantage of. Unfortunately I need gas to get around. If I knew how to get around without driving this car I would."

National leaders are also speaking up about the profits. Thursday, US Senate Najority Leader Bill Frist called for a joint hearing to examine the high energy prices.

It's enough to make some consumer advocates scream manipulation. Jamie Court of The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, "An industry like the oil industry knows that if it just has a bare minimum to meet demand, any shock to the system will drive their price, their prices and their profits up."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for ways to shave oil profits or use the gains to expand production. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, "We expect oil companies to do their part to help ease the pain American families are feeling from high energy prices."

Gas prices hit their highest this Labor Day, with the national average for regular unleaded topping $3 a gallon. Prices have since dropped to $2.60 this week and are expected to go even lower. 

Next week, the House Resources Committee is expected to approve legislation to allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House and Senate would still need to approve the key part of President Bush's energy plan, calling to expand oil exploration in the region.

Updated 5:03pm by Bryce Mursch with NBC

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