Editorial: Improvement is tempered with caution

Apr. 15, 2013 @ 04:29 PM

News from the oil industry Monday was pretty good. What it really means, however, is up to debate.

We know it matters to us. Every time we pull through the pumps, get a few miles for a lot of bucks, we hurt. Economic prosperity? It’s slow going.

The industry, however, cares about profit. This is an industry that has shown a propensity to be sure stockholders and executives are taken care of, no matter the demand or lack of demand on the market, or the pain for everyday users of the product.

Consider the news earlier this month about Chevron and its chief executive officer, John Watson. Watson makes $1.7 million a year, and just got a bump to $1.8 million. For his company’s performance in 2011, he earned a $4 million bonus.

The news earlier this month was he would “only” get $3.48 million for 2012. It seems a fire burned for weeks at a well off the coast of Nigeria in early 2012, and another fire at a refinery in Richmond, Calif., reduced capacity half the year.

But that didn’t hurt the giant company too much. Chevron earned $26.2 billion in 2012 — in profit. Yes, profit.

Keep in mind the company has interests besides us at the pump. But even with the pump prices, the company withstood hits and still picked up an incredible amount of profit.

And they’re not even the biggest. Exxon Mobil raked in $40 billion in 2012 — in profit. We don’t have the answer to the very good question, “If they’re making that much profit, why did we have to pay close to $4 a gallon?”

So the news is good right now, both for us at the pump, and stakeholders. The price for an unleaded gallon of gas, nationwide, is down to $3.51, which is about six cents cheaper than a week ago. It is about 15 cents better than a month ago.

And it is about 38 cents improved — to us, maybe not the profit watchers — from a year ago.

That is good nationally, and it is also good in our state. North Carolina is reporting a $3.49 average currently, tremendously improved over $3.88 a year ago.

We’re happy for now but, we know, the industry will take care of itself. And we may pay as a result.