No More Gushers for ExxonMobil

The company's stingy approach to oil exploration means you can count on high gas prices to stick around

Benjamin Lowy / Corbis

Exxon gas station in Houston, TX.

In January 1981, as gasoline prices set all-time highs in the wake of the Iran-Iraq war, oil giant Exxon announced that it would pour $11 billion into capital investment and exploration over the course of the year. That was a 35% increase over 1980 and a tripling of the budget from 1973, the year when the Arab oil embargo first sent prices skyrocketing. "The $11 billion is almost three times the profit we made in 1979," a company vice president told a reporter.

You probably know what happened next: conservation and a global recession--and the gusher of new oil produced by...

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