That’s a profit of $1,485.55 a second.
The previous corporate record was $11.66 billion, also set by Exxon in the fourth quarter of 2007.
As an oil producer, the company makes a lot of money when crude prices rise. Exxon made $10 billion from selling oil in the latest quarter, up nearly 70 percent.
Defenders of oil company profits point out that their profit margin of around 8 percent is slightly below average for S&P 500 companies, and far below the 20 percent-plus margins seen at companies such as Microsoft or Pfizer. At first glance, the fact that Exxon earned nearly $1,500 a second last quarter seems astronomical, and indeed it is. But is it really a bad thing … or simply a matter of perception?
True, Exxon does have a history of earning the largest quarterly profits in U.S. history. But their profit margins are around 8 percent, which is not at all unusual for S&P 500 companies.
The software industry actually boasts the highest profit margins, followed by drug companies; both of these sectors have profit margins of 20 percent and higher.
So perhaps it is a bit unfair to shake your finger at Exxon, simply because of the vast level on which they do their business. And although Exxon does make (huge) profits when oil prices rise, they also suffer.
Exxon is also an oil refiner, which means it must buy crude oil to turn into fuel. According to CNN, Exxon actually buys more crude oil than it sells, and their profits from their refining business this year were less than half of what they were last year.
Then again, Exxon is certainly not without fault.
What is Driving the Price of Oil?
I have not made a great study of the subject of oil price fluctuations and oil company profits, but I recently talked to an expert in this area. He and many other experts believe that as much as 60 percent of the price of oil is based on pure speculation from investors bidding up oil futures prices.
Meanwhile, oil companies are notoriously greedy, and the oil companies -- not the people who are selling the oil to you -- have record profits. Even back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the oil industry's infrastructure in the Gulf Coast, Exxon flourished.
Exxon's revenue went up 32 percent that year to over $100 billion, which is greater than the annual GDP of all but 38 countries.
Major oil companies like Exxon are also working to discredit global warming. According to the Exxonsecrets Web site, at least 124 organizations have received money from the company to spin a contradictory line against it.
Even though I think it’s quite clear that global warming is a natural cyclic occurrence that is not solely created by man, that does NOT mean I’m for continuing polluting the world as we are today. And I think that is what companies like Exxon are hoping for.
Ideally, Exxon would use some of their massive profits for the good of the environment -- looking for better, cleaner, safer energy alternatives -- instead of furthering financial and political platforms that ignore the real issue at hand, which is how to work toward creating a cleaner and healthier environment for all.