Ride a bike, or buy stock in Exxon

Gas prices are up again, and Exxon is on track for another record year of profits. And here’s my beef with the situation:

They’re not easing production due to environmental concerns. They’re not plowing that money back into exploration, or developing more efficient extraction, or anything of that nature. They’re buying back their stock. Lots of it. What does this mean to oil-dependent Americans? The world’s most profitable company has realized that they don’t need to find more oil. They don’t even need to look hard. Using their outsize profits to buy back stock increases their share price, with much less risk than digging more holes in the ground.

That’s great if you’re a shareholder, but it sucks if you’re a consumer. Unless you live on a farm and make your own clothes from hemp, chances are that oil prices affect everything you buy, sell, or use every day.

Anyone that is using a bike for transportation, now matter how short the trip, is making a difference not just to the environment and their own health, but to their wallet. And like compounding interest, the savings are going to start adding up quickly over time. There is not going to be a sudden glut of millions of barrels of oil, with a corresponding price drop in gasoline. Refineries are not going to suddenly cut their prices to ease the burden on those businesses and individuals that rely heavily on petroleum products. But the people that pedal their way around town are going to continue to save.

And I’ll keep getting some funky ads served up by Google.

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alex muller

“I was wondering what you guys thought of this article: http://thenewsroom.com/details/329894/Business?c_id=adm
It almost makes me want to run out and buy stock in some of the oil companies out there so I can try to turn a buck on the ever-rising gas prices. But is that the real issue here? Should we be concentrating on making money or saving the environment? In the long run, probably saving the Earth, but is it bad to focus on your wallet in the short run?


Who says the two have to be mutually exclusive? I would not invest in oil or tobacco, for instance. But the company that makes the super thin solar panels would get my money.

By the way, as a cyclist, I find it amusing that my largest holding is Amgen, makers of Epogen.


Over the past 20 years, the oil companies LOST money in 17 of those years. This, along with the current changing regulatory climate and big pushes towards “green” fuels makes them very very reluctant to spend big money on capital expenses and exploration.

Nevertheless, Big Oil is spending a tremendous amount of money on exploration right now. Inside the United States, for example, real dollar exploration costs in the last two years exceed what was spent on exploration WORLDWIDE from the 50s and 60s. We’ve burned all the easy stuff, so we’ve hit diminishing returns by going after the hard stuff. If you take a look around at oil producing regions, you’ll see rigs punching holes in the ground all over the place. In my old neighborhood in Colorado, for example, oil companies are erecting drilling rigs in city parks and school playgrounds.

For much more, see commentary on Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Sankey’s statements over at the Oil Drum.

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