Despite public-relations campaigns designed to make consumers think otherwise, big oil companies remain firmly tied to doing what’s best for their stockholders and bottom line, the Los Angeles Times reports. Though demand has outstripped production, companies spend more on stock buybacks than supply-boosting exploration. But, one analyst notes, “it's not their job to be doing things in the public's best interest.”
Cases in point: When demand fell in July, refiners scaled back, causing shortages and spiking prices when hurricanes knocked out production on the Gulf Coast, and while truckers struggle to stay afloat, refiners are exporting diesel to Europe, where it fetches higher prices. Though Congress has relaxed restrictions on offshore drilling, it will be profits that determine when companies move to tap oil there.