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An investigation into the relationship of retail gas prices on oil company profitability

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In this article, we present several empirical procedures using publicly available data from the US Department of Energy (DOE), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to examine the relationship of oil company gross profit margins to retail gas prices. This descriptive analysis indicates that the profit margins of the major integrated oil companies are lower, on average, during periods of extremely high gas and oil prices (and, in fact, are even lower than in times of extremely low gas and oil prices). Large oil companies are most profitable during periods of moderate gasoline prices. Smaller, vertically integrated oil companies and firms, primarily in the business of refining purchased crude oil, exhibit a consistently inverse relationship between profit margins and retail gas prices – as gas prices increase, these firms become less profitable. We find no evidence for the increase in the gross profit margins of oil companies during episodes of very high retail gasoline prices.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, 5335 Wisconsin Avenue NW – Ste. 440WashingtonDC 20015, USA

Publication date: 2011-11-01

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