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President Barack Obama, making the case from the Rose Garden that oil companies would be just fine without tax breaks, offered this striking figure: Last year, he said, "Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour."
We had to know: Is that true?
Here’s the excerpt from the March 29, 2012, speech:
"It’s not as if these companies can’t stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour."
Here’s the math:
Exxon Mobil Corp. estimates it earned $41 billion in 2011.
Divide by 365 days in the year and 24 hours in a day — and that’s $4.67 million.
Obama has previously struggled with the facts about Exxon’s profit. In 2007, he claimed the company’s profits had never been higher, when that wasn’t true at the time.
Last year, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., was on stronger ground when he declared that "over the past decade, the big five oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell — made a total profit of nearly $1 trillion." PolitiFact Virginia rated that Mostly True.
This time, Exxon answered the president on its blog, saying "the reality is that statistics such as by-the-hour profits only tell part of the story."
"Consider if the president had added the following statistics: ExxonMobil’s taxes were $12.3 million an hour, and it took more than $47 million an hour to run the global business. Those statistics are also accurate and they put the $4.7 million an hour in profits in context."
(We should note that we can’t independently verify the company’s tax bill. As we’ve reported before, the actual income tax, for example, paid by Exxon to the U.S. government is confidential information. We have dinged politicians for inaccurately characterizing the company’s taxes.)
The company has a point that Obama’s statistic doesn't detail the oil company's expenses. But in this fact-check, we’re focusing just on the claim that, "Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour." As a simple snapshot of Exxon’s 2011 profit, his arithmetic is right on target. We rate the statement True.
White House, "Remarks by the President on Oil and Gas Subsidies," March 29, 2012
Exxon Mobil Corp., "Exxon Mobil Corporation Announces Estimated Fourth Quarter 2011 Results," Jan. 31, 2012
ExxonMobile’s Perspectives blog, "Big oil, big taxes," March 30, 2012
PolitiFact, "Rep. Jim Moran says top five oil U.S. companies raked in $1 trillion profit," April 11, 2011
PolitiFact, "Bernie Sanders says ExxonMobil paid no taxes in 2009, but that's inaccurate," Dec. 10, 2010
PolitiFact Ohio, "Rep. Dennis Kucinich says ExxonMobil paid no taxes in 2009 and got $156 million rebate," Sept. 1, 2011
PolitiFact, "He's a year too late on this energy claim," Dec. 31, 2007
Obameter, "Enact windfall profits tax for oil companies," updated March 16, 2011
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