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The evils of ‘big oil’ 23, October 2008

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The Tyranny of Oil” is a new book ranting and raving about the evils of oil companies. I have only read the introduction which was – rather unsurprisingly – averagely written and generally far too excitedly angry. I agree that oil companies are not exactly warm, kind-hearted companies but I think that hatchet-job books like this, with their desperately simple and emotive language and eye-catching covers of fire and brimstone, are just not helpful. They may well be wholly right (which i sincerely doubt) but the very manner of their writing to me just screams “one sided”, and there are always two sides to every story, however apparently cut and dried. Nevertheless there are a few interesting or at least surprising facts. Obviously, these snippets are all to do with the incarnation of evil that are the oil companies, but – assuming that they are correct – they do paint a stark picture of the industry.

– There have been 2600 mergers in the oil industry since 1991. This, therefore, brings words such a monopoly, oligopoly and cartel to mind.

– “Were the five largest oil companies operating in the United States one country instead of five corporations, their combined crude oil holdings would today rank within the top 10 of the world’s largest oil-rich nations.” Its always interesting – though beyond pointless – to note figures like these.

– “Six of the ten largest corporations in the world are oil companies. They are, in order, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell (Shell), BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Total. (The others are Wal-Mart, General Motors, Toyota Motor, and Daimler-Chrysler.)”

– “From 1998 to 2006, ExxonMobil alone spent more than $80 million lobbying the federal government, over 14 times more money than it spent on political campaigns.” One can imagine whole chapters raging against the companies premised on figures like these.

And the best statistic of all:

– The 10 largest oil companies in the world made over $167 billion of pure, clear, brilliant profit in 2006. That’s a lot of cash.