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Old 05-01-2008, 12:46 PM   #21
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I've heard in South Africa gas is ~$0.43/gallon. Who cares about great white sharks, manhood-shrinking sorcerers, or British tourists, that sounds like a good place to retire to me!
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:38 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
OK, are you offering to have your personal taxes raised 10%? It shouldn't affect you much.

And why single out the oil companies? There are plenty of other businesses making a higher profit margin.

-ERD50
The point is that the initial argument is stupid. There are good reasons to be against a windfall tax but the "it'll make them re-consider their business model" argument doesn't hold. Exxon just isn't going to pull out of oil exploration if their profits drop from $40B to $36B due to a windfall tax.
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:46 PM   #23
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Mostly because they can't get permits to build a new refinery. NIMBY. Maybe that is a good thing, but it is the reason, nonetheless. It is easier to expand an existing plant, as mb points out.
There has always been a lot more money in upstream operations (mainly exploration) compared to downstream operations (refining and retail). In fact, downstream often loses money for the majors. Look at Valero's (a pure-play downstream) lack of profits this quarter.

"Independent refiners like Valero, which don't own or operate oilfields, have been hit hard by the run-up in oil prices to $120 per barrel, while retail gasoline prices have hit $3.61 per gallon."
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Old 05-02-2008, 12:30 AM   #24
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Nice post and I agree. I keep hearing all the big tax breaks for big oil. Now I don't doubt there are many/some but I am waiting for one of the wind turbines politician and/or the media to start listing the exact tax breaks big oil gets.

We provide an R&D tax credit for big pharma, big tech, and any other industry, I am not sure that providing an incentive for oil companies to look for oil in the US is such a bad thing. In fact it seem pretty comparable to the R&D tax credit.
Good points.

I'll contradict myself a bit and say that I have conflicting opinions on tax incentives for exploration. I would like to discourage gasoline consumption but I would like to encourage discovery of new oil reserves in this country. But I kind of view oil reserves like ER investments. It's good to have more but it isn't necessarily good to use it up as fast as you can. But oil companies and their share holders want to maximize profits and that usually means pumping it out of the ground as quickly as possible and as profit making entities that is what they should do. We can't criticize them for that. That is what they are supposed to do - make money. But I think this is one area where perhaps government should try to push things just a bit in what I think is the right direction towards more conservation and preserving resources for future needs. (Sometimes I surprise myself when I sound so much like a good democrat )

I don't know how much of a break oil companies get for exploration. All I know is what the spin-masters on each side say and that is probably the equivalent of knowing nothing.

One poster asked about oil company profit margin. Again I don't know actual numbers but my recollection is that historically it is pretty modest.

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Old 05-02-2008, 07:52 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by eridanus View Post
The point is that the initial argument is stupid. There are good reasons to be against a windfall tax but the "it'll make them re-consider their business model" argument doesn't hold. Exxon just isn't going to pull out of oil exploration if their profits drop from $40B to $36B due to a windfall tax.
Of course it would not have such extreme effects as having Exxon 'pull out of oil exploration' over a 10% tax. Just like lowering gas prices by by 18 cents (the fed tax) won't make everybody go out and buy a Hummer.

But price and profit changes *do* have reactions. The supply/demand and risk/reward fundamentals have not been changed.

My basic problem with a 'windfall' tax is - where's the 'windfall'? From my above post:

Quote:
I just looked up the top 10 companies in the S&P 500. Of those ten, two are oil companies (CVX XOM). Their profit margins are rank # 7 and 10 - out of 10. 11.2% and 9.0%, versus 21%-28% for the top three.
Here, in easier to read form:

S&P Rank Symbol Profit %
1 .......MSFT.. 28%
2 .........MO.. 25%
3 ........BAC.. 21%
....
7 ........XOM.. 11%
....
10 .......CVX... 9%

So why is this a 'windfall tax'? Now, if the country decides it wants to tax fossil fuel, because we want to discourage its use and promote alternative sources, I'm OK with that concept. But focusing on businesses that make moderate profit margins, and making it seem that making money is a punishable offense bothers me.

How would you like the govt to decide that *you* made 'too much' money, and that you (or your business) should be singled out and taxed at a higher rate than others?

Let me be clear - if the oil companies are found guilty of collusion, price fixing, or other illegal acts, the people involved should serve time, and the companies should be fined heavily. But I dread the day when making a profit by selling a legal product that is in demand is retroactively determined to be a punishable (or fine-able) offense. That's what a 'windfall' tax sounds like to me. We have tax laws on the books - way too many of them already.

Heck, as long as I'm on my soapbox, lets talk some *real* common sense. I'll go back to my fundamentals and state again that we should eliminate *all* corporate tax. After all, these taxes are just paid by the consumer. The overhead of compliance with these taxes is paid by the consumer. So, all corporate taxes do is raise prices for consumers and help drive jobs overseas. It a shell game, but no one wins - not even Uncle Sam. So a 'windfall' tax is just a smoke/mirrors tax policy stacked on top of a smoke/mirrors tax policy.

-ERD50




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Old 05-02-2008, 10:23 AM   #26
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My basic problem with a 'windfall' tax is - where's the 'windfall'?
You're talking profit margins and Exxon is making record profits. There's a difference.

Any "windfall" tax would be modeled like the natural income tax, which is progressive. If you make $1 million in a year, you pay at a higher tax rate than if you made only $100,000. The IRS doesn't care about profit margin - it cares about profit.

Corporations are "persons" in the US. Like any person, they must pay income tax on any earnings they make anywhere in the world.
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Old 05-02-2008, 10:33 AM   #27
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You're talking profit margins and Exxon is making record profits. There's a difference.

Any "windfall" tax would be modeled like the natural income tax, which is progressive. If you make $1 million in a year, you pay at a higher tax rate than if you made only $100,000. The IRS doesn't care about profit margin - it cares about profit.

Corporations are "persons" in the US. Like any person, they must pay income tax on any earnings they make anywhere in the world.
That is already in place for ALL corporations:

Quote:
Corporate Income Tax Rates--2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000


Taxable income over Not over Tax rate

$ 0 $ 50,000 15%
50,000 75,000 25%
75,000 100,000 34%
100,000 335,000 39%
335,000 10,000,000 34%
10,000,000 15,000,000 35%
15,000,000 18,333,333 38%
18,333,333 .......... 35%

If Congress wants to set a higher tax rate for higher incomes, then they should do it. But to make it industry specific makes no sense to me, and to try to do it after the fact is just silly.

'Oh, we didn't MEAN IT when we passed that law that said the tax rate is 35% over $18M, what we REALLY meant was.....'

It is pandering to an ignorant public, what we need is an energy policy.

-ERD50

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Old 05-04-2008, 10:30 AM   #28
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I believe a large part of the pricing problems arise from futures traders, speculators and other price affecting entities who contribute NOTHING of value to the public good. There are many who believe that even allowing for the devaluation of the dollar that oil should only be about $80 per barrel. Someone is making loads of $$$ and delivering no value to the consumers. If anything that is what should be addressed by the government. These same types who manipulate markets for their own profit with no concern for the future repercussions to the public (like the credit mess we are all prisoner to now) are the ones that need to be regulated.
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And don't get me started on ethanol.....



From oilintel.com

Don't Tell Anyone, the "Fix" is in... April 16, 2008 7:27:AM ET By Tom Waterman New York, NY - Here we are at the middle of the week and so far, the commodity manipulators have done fine work. New records in crude oil this week and now we're poised for a new record in gasoline. Overnight, the market is slightly higher for oil commodities, but when you read the wire services you can get a glimpse of what is coming later this morning.
The hype began in Europe and Asia and it's spreading to the U.S. this morning. Here are some facts.
First, crude oil inventories worldwide are at GLUT proportions. U.S. gasoline inventories are at GLUT proportions. Distillate inventories are adequate.
The very minor supply glitches that have occurred this week did nothing to change the fundamental weakness in world oil markets, much less the U.S. market where demand is falling fast.
"Recent production outages are causing particular concern in the present market amid longer-term worries over stockpile levels in major consumer countries, analysts said," according to one of the services. That's how out of touch the commodities markets are with physical markets. Physical traders continue to tell us they can get anything they want whenever they want in whatever volume they want, and have many choices available. And they do not anticipate that situation changing.
"Meanwhile, reports also emerged of minor supply outages in Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, after rebels caused a fire at the Beniboye oil plants in the Delta State of Nigeria," reported one of the services.
Any reference to Nigeria is simply absurd at this juncture. We have heard through various sources that the outage was about 5,000 bpd. As we noted yesterday, Nigeria spills that much every day, or it's stolen.
Now, the "fix."
"An expected upswing in refinery runs should restrict the size of any crude oil build, but gasoline stockpiles were expected to have dropped by 1.7 million barrels, the analysts predicted, while stocks of distillates, which include heating oil, are seen falling by 1.5 million barrels."
If gasoline stocks fall by just 1.7 million barrels in the EIA report, that would be a dramatically bearish development. A decline of anywhere from 3.5 to 5.5 million barrels would not surprise us at all. When and if that occurs, the market will leap forward because of the "UNEXPECTED" decline in U.S. gasoline inventories.
The "fix" is in. In a market that does not move based on any fundamental reality, it's amazing how they can spin a "normal" event such as drawdown in winter grade gasoline, which always occurs at this time of year, and claim "fundamental strength," as a result.
Speculation is part of commodity trading, but not at the rate and influence it now boasts. It has reduced commodity trading to a casino game that the large hedge funds and commission houses win all the time. They have the strength to impose their collective will, force out smaller traders whenever they want and clean up on the other end. It has ended small and mid-sized hedging.
They use the wire services as their mouthpieces to promote their "book" helping to guarantee the steady flow of profits from a market that can only move higher, never lower. And it is out of control.

Don't Tell Anyone, the "Fix" is in...
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Old 05-04-2008, 12:13 PM   #29
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I believe a large part of the pricing problems arise from futures traders, speculators and other price affecting entities who contribute NOTHING of value to the public good. There are many who believe that even allowing for the devaluation of the dollar that oil should only be about $80 per barrel. Someone is making loads of $$$ and delivering no value to the consumers.
I am extremely skeptical that 'market manipulators' could drive the price of a world-wide commodity, that trades in the b-b-b-b-b-billions of $, from $80 to over $110.

Demand is growing in China and many other areas. China went from exporting oil to importing oil. The US is reluctant to do more drilling in many areas. Ockam's Razor says that is enough of an explanation. Conserve the tin-foil.

Can you give a reader's digest version on how this market manipulation is economically possible on such a large scale?


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Old 05-04-2008, 12:24 PM   #30
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If that were true, then why was the last refinery built about 30 years ago, domestically.
Don't remember the exact citation, but I believe I heard that a large part of our rising gas prices is due to limited refinery capacity, not the 20% of oil that we import.
Maybe I don't understand what you are saying here, but the USA imports far more than 20% of its crude needs. The current number is pushing 60%, 2 years ago it was 54%.

Green Car Congress: US Imports of OPEC Crude Jump in 2007

We also import some small portion of our finished products, mostly from Caribbean refiners.

The current high gasoline prices are not from refinery constraints, but from high crude prices. This can be seen by a look at very low current and recent crack spreads. Crack spreads measure the profit margin of refinery products output relative to crude input.

Ha
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Old 05-04-2008, 03:14 PM   #31
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Quoting ERD50:
"Can you give a reader's digest version on how this market manipulation is economically possible on such a large scale?"


The same way that the credit industry persuaded millions of people that real estate would keep going up forever and it was a good idea to jump in and INVEST in your future and make gobs of money by borrowing more than they can afford now just to get your piece in the game. The money coming out of the stock market is flowing to commodities, energy in particular. When the correction comes, many will lose their investments.
All that has to be done is persuade world wide investors and traders that peak oil is here, that China and India will buy up all the oil and if they will just get in the game now they too can make millions without lifting a finger I know for a fact that the storage tanks at the refineries where I live are full, ships are on their way with more oil and the refinery rates have been cut back to just stay ahead of delivery because they will not make product that costs more to make than they can sell it for.
Oil futures are in contango now, cheaper each year for the next several according to the futures contracts, which usually means that there is massive speculation in the markets and when it ends the prices will fall.
Mind you, I do not believe we will see $50 oil again and it may go higher before it comes down again but the speed with which it went to $120 is just not justifiable at this time.


Removing my tinfoil hat,
2fer

PS:
ERD, I agree with you on your points about the windfall profits tax. Our government should keep its fingers out of business decisions. I am also very aware that many oil companies, refineries and other related oil industries have gone through many VERY lean years and averaged out over time they are not considered good investments. They deserve to be able to make money without the guilt being heaped on them by the media and politicians. What is happening now is not directly related to greed on their part. Exxon and Conoco (oil), Valero and Marathon (refining) do NOT set the prices which they sell their products for. It is set on a daily basis by worldwide trading which has always been affected by speculation and slick traders trying to influence pricing by even a few cents so they can take profits.
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Old 05-04-2008, 03:33 PM   #32
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OK, thanks two4theroad - plausible, but I'm still skeptical.

Seems like everybody and his/her brother, sister mother, grandmother was flipping houses, refinancing to take equity out of their house, and/or getting a HELOC, or buying more house than they could afford because RE was going to go up forever...

That's an exaggeration on my part, but it still seems like more money was going into RE than energy. I can see where speculation could be driving oil up some, but I am having trouble with $110 versus $80.


-ERD50
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Old 05-05-2008, 01:09 AM   #33
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Maybe I don't understand what you are saying here, but the USA imports far more than 20% of its crude needs. The current number is pushing 60%, 2 years ago it was 54%.

Green Car Congress: US Imports of OPEC Crude Jump in 2007

We also import some small portion of our finished products, mostly from Caribbean refiners.

The current high gasoline prices are not from refinery constraints, but from high crude prices. This can be seen by a look at very low current and recent crack spreads. Crack spreads measure the profit margin of refinery products output relative to crude input.

Ha
A result of too much of that 2buck vino, and posting beyond the legal speed limit. I went back and reread my imagined sources, and determined that I missed the source date, which turns out to be 1996, so yes, upon further research, and no drinking today, I determine that our import needs are approaching 80% - mea culpa, mea culpa.
Re: the refinery comment, I think I'm guilty of reading some of the press dribble, and regurgitating it, as ERD50 already commented on.
I'll go back to complaining that the prices are too darn high, relative to the sudden increases, that have risen exponentially, over the last few years. It just "feels" wrong, like the bubbles in RE or tech "felt" wrong at their heyday. I obviously don't have insider knowledge, nor access to the myriad of information that the oil industry is using to justify the prices, so I have to use my gut feelings to react to those prices. Right or wrong, reacting to those gut feelings kept me out of both the tech and RE meltdowns. Can't say I was as lucky on the upside, though.
I'll go back to vino now, as I've stirred up enough debate over this issue.
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Speculators are still in control.....
Old 05-15-2008, 02:37 PM   #34
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Speculators are still in control.....

Congress Seeks to Close the 'Enron Loophole'

May 15, 2008 1:22 PM

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports: Ken Lay has been dead almost two years and Jeffrey Skilling is several years into his 24 year prison sentence, but one legacy of the Enron era lives on.

It’s the "Enron loophole," which exempts energy speculators who make trades electronically from US regulation. Some argue that the unregulated energy speculation, codified in 2000, can account for $20 to $25 in the jump in oil prices.

But now, 8 years after energy traders were able to push legislation exempting their electronic trades of energy futures from US regulation, a measure in the Farm Bill aims to close the loophole and subject futures trades made electronically inside the United States to US law.

“This bill is really our best bet to deter unscrupulous traders from manipulating energy prices and engaging in excessive speculation. This has been a long, hard road – and this is a major legislative victory," Said California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein after the Senate passed the underlying Farm Bill on a broad, bipartisan basis.

Specifically, according to her office, the bill would "require electronic energy traders to provide an audit trail and record-keeping, monitor for market manipulation, and increase financial penalties for cases of market manipulation and excessive speculation."

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalradar/...
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Old 05-23-2008, 04:32 PM   #35
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Vote Democrat, vote Republican, vote for Ralph Nader...you're still electing a politician.

The sad thing is I wouldn't mind seeing gas at $7-8, comparable with England. Less SUV soccer moms glued to their cell phones trying to run me over. Fewer idiots with trucks running around trying to run me over. Generally, just less people trying to run me over in general. And if they were still running around, it'd be putting a terrible dent in their wallet, and at least I'd have that going for me if I got ran over.
Geezzzzzzzz, it's a miracle you are still alive...lol....no really, I agree with you. I've taken to my bike lately like a rat to cheese and I've been thinking that maybe I'd invent some kind of air-conditioned iron body wear to keep me alive if I fall prey to a hummer or other monster truck. Maybe I also need to look into having my life insurance increased. Eventually, I think we bikers will outnumber those hummers.
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:45 PM   #36
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I knew they would find it....after the fact.

Speculators in `dark markets' may have driven oil up | Business | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle

New focus on speculation

Report points to influence of 'dark markets' on oil price spike

By KEVIN G. HALL Mcclatchy-tribune

Sept. 10, 2008, 10:23PM


WASHINGTON — Federal regulators have uncovered evidence that oil speculators operating in unregulated "dark markets" may have helped drive the price of oil to record highs this year.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is expected to issue a long-awaited report before Monday, perhaps today, on what role oil speculators played in the 50 percent rise in oil prices earlier this year. The report isn't expected to declare that speculators are the main cause of the price rise, a conclusion the agency rejected in an interim report in July.
One CFTC commissioner, Michael Dunn, signaled last week that the report would be inconclusive, noting, "I doubt it is possible to come up with a definitive answer one way or another at this time" about the role of speculators.
However, unregulated markets account for two-thirds of oil trading on financial markets, and they could be used to manipulate prices on regulated exchanges that account for the remaining trading.
The finding that some speculators exceeded positions allowed in regulated markets is sure to spark debate about how much the CFTC knows about the markets it regulates, whether more stringent reporting requirements are needed, and whether the government should require more disclosure from speculators and banks.
It's not entirely clear how the CFTC, which is under heavy criticism from Congress, will portray its findings about the large dark-market positions in the much-anticipated report. The agency's interim report said it thought that the soaring oil prices earlier this year were due to underlying fundamentals of supply and demand.
Acting CFTC Chairman Walter Lukken is scheduled to testify today before a House committee.
After the interim report was released in July, he was mocked by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who questioned the report's timing ahead of an expected congressional vote on energy legislation.
On Wednesday, timing again was an issue as Dorgan called a news conference to present a report ahead of the CFTC's.
His report came from hedge fund manager Michael Masters, who alleges that oil speculators were almost completely responsible for the run-up in oil prices — and their recent decline.
"We have a brain-dead regulator here ... content to do nothing," Dorgan said.
The CFTC declined comment.
The report from Masters and his partner, Adam White, uses CFTC data to conclude that from January through the end of May, index investors pumped $60 billion into major commodity indexes, and oil prices rose $33 a barrel.
Beginning on July 15, a sell-off of these commodities began, resulting in about $39 billion pulled out, and a $29-per-barrel drop in oil prices.
"Clearly what affects prices is money. Money came in and money went out," Masters told reporters, saying that prices moved not on supply-and-demand fundamentals, but by investors' decisions.
That view was challenged by the Smart Energy Policy Coalition, a group that represents the futures industry and commodities dealer trade associations.
In late May, the CFTC announced that it was, for the first time, using its so-called special call authority to demand that traders show their positions in a complicated, unregulated parallel market called the over-the-counter swaps market.
Specifically, the agency is looking into swap dealers, who enter into complex private contracts for oil sales away from the peering eyes of regulators.
Some of the speculators doing business with swap dealers — who generally are large investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — have built positions that would be prohibited in regulated futures markets.
Swap dealers are exempt from position limits because they enter into private contracts in the over-the-counter market, and then hedge the risks from those contracts in the regulated futures market.
Regulators know what swap dealers' positions are in regulated markets, but they have far less information about who's on the other end of a swap deal.
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:00 PM   #37
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Vote Democrat, vote Republican, vote for Ralph Nader...you're still electing a politician.
Is there any way for anyone to run for an elected office without being a politician?

Vote Democrat, vote Republican, vote for Ralph Nader...you're still electing a politician human being.
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:06 PM   #38
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Nice post and I agree. I keep hearing all the big tax breaks for big oil. Now I don't doubt there are many/some but I am waiting for one of the wind turbines politician and/or the media to start listing the exact tax breaks big oil gets.
I was wondering the same thing.
Does anyone know?
I tried Google but couldn't find anything listing what they are.
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