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Exxon profits fuel fire over Big Oil tax breaks

Feeling any pain at the pump?

While skyrocketing gas prices are hurting Americans and small businesses — and threatening to plunge the U.S. into a double-dip recession as the nation struggles with persistently high unemployment — there are some folks who couldn’t be happier: oil company executives.

Today, Exxon announced it made nearly $11 billion in the first quarter of 2011 as profits rose 69%, giving the world’s largest publicly traded company its best quarter since 2008.

As AP reports, Exxon isn’t the only oil company reaping a windfall from high gas prices:

Europe’s largest oil company, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, reported $8.78 billion in first-quarter profits, up 60 percent from a year ago. BP PLC’s quarterly earnings rose 16 percent to $7.2 billion. ConocoPhillips said net income grew 43 percent to $3 billion and Occidental Petroleum Corp. said earnings climbed 46 percent to $1.55 billion. Chevron Corp., the second-biggest U.S. oil company, is expected Friday to report a 25 percent increase to $5.69 billion.

Exxon is making so much money so fast — more than $5 million every hour in the 1st quarter — that the company published a preemptive message in advance of announcing its 1st quarter profits asking Americans to look past the “inevitable headlines and sound bites about high gasoline prices,” and think about all the factors beyond their control that led to the windfall.

Why is the company so sensitive to a backlash?

The reason is not just that American citizens and businesses are angry about how quickly gas prices have skyrocketed —up 25% in those three months Exxon was raking in $11 billion — it’s because President Obama has been calling on Congress to cut the billions of dollars in subsidies that taxpayers provide the oil companies. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees and has promised that the Senate will take the issue up as early as next week.

With his finger to the political wind, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has expressed willingness to consider repealing some of the oil industry tax benefits. So stay tuned to see if he has enough control over his gone-rogue caucus of teabaggin’ freshmen to convince them that repealing unnecessary and politically indefensible tax breaks should be part of their deficit-reduction agenda.

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