The spike in oil prices is hitting consumers and putting the Obama administration in the hot seat, but it’s been good for the oil industry.

The world’s six largest publicly traded oil companies enjoyed a combined $38.1 billion profitability windfall in first quarter. Of the big players, only BP’s earnings declined slightly from the first quarter last year.

The boon stems from a spike in the price of oil, which jumped 17 percent during this earnings period, and is now $113 a barrel; gasoline prices now average $3.89 per gallon nationally. The world’s largest publicly traded company, Exxon earned almost $11 billion in the first quarter and noted that higher oil prices boosted profits 69 percent from a year ago. It was Exxon’s best since earning a record $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008, when oil prices also surged.

Exxon was quick to point out that it has little control over the price of oil.

In BP’s case, higher oil prices were offset by asset sales resulting from the Deepwater Horizon spill last year. The company’s $5.48 billion in earnings is down only slightly from $5.6 billion in the first quarter last year. Among oil companies reporting first quarter earnings this week were:
•Royal Dutch Shell PLC, $8.78 billion, up 60 percent from a year ago.
•ConocoPhillips, $3 billion, up 44 percent
•Occidental Petroleum Corp., $1.55 billion, up 46 percent
•Chevron Corp., $6.2 billion, 36 percent

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