The Nation: How Big Are Big Oil's Profits?

It is one thing to accuse the oil companies of a profits rip-off and quite another to prove it. Time and again, critics of the industry have denounced Big Oil's profits as everything from exorbitant to obscene. But not even Senator Henry Jackson, the industry's arch-opponent, has succeeded in making the charge stick.

The basic industry argument is that in spite of a nearly fivefold rise in world oil prices since 1972, oil-company profits last year accounted for a smaller share of gross revenues than they did before OPEC began jacking up the price (4.7%, v. 6.4% in 1972). After-tax profits...

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