America's oil and gas companies range in size from one man operations to ExxonMobil. Virtually all across that size spectrum, oil companies have a "bad image" that is ill deserved. Depending on the publication, "news" report or op-ed piece, oil companies are accused of being insensitive to environmental concerns; opposed to any global warming legislation; making too big or "windfall" profits; paying insufficient taxes and, in general, being poor corporate citizens.
Oil and gas companies make easy targets. Say "big oil" or "oilman" and visions of JR Ewing of DALLAS; Jett Rink of GIANT; Blake Carrington of DYNASTY; or Daniel Plainview of THERE WILL BE BLOOD are raised. Images and stories about real life people like the late Cortlandt Dietler and Fred Mayer who collectively "saved" the Denver Art Museum with their time and money; Marvin Davis who, with his wife, were the largest private contributors and money raisers for juvenile diabetes research; Phil Anschutz, whose efforts and donations have resulted in the Anschutz Medical Campus which now houses the University of Colorado Medical School and has attracted such "neighbors" as Children's Hospital, a rapidly expanding bio-tech research center and will soon have a new Veteran's Administration regional medical treatment center. These "oilmen" were just from Denver...similar stories can be found in virtually every city that hosts an oil company presence.
Oil companies, "big oil" or the majors at least, are among the leaders in researching new sources of energy from alternative fuels (alternatives to fossil fuel), nuclear, solar and wind. Research and development projects by oil companies combined with massive amounts of capital expenditures (risk money) have led to the development of, so called, "resource plays" for natural gas production from gas shales. Large "independent" companies like Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy, Mitchell Energy, Anadarko and others have led the drilling charge to develop massive reserves of clean burning natural gas in these plays.
In 2006, oil companies paid $138,000,000,000 (yes...BILLION) in Federal Income Tax. By contrast, 100 million individual US taxpayers paid $136,000,000,000 in Federal Income Tax. I.E., the "bottom 75%" of all US taxpayers paid less than the oil companies. Those figures don't include the amounts paid in state and local income taxes, severance taxes, property taxes or use and sales taxes. Nor, do they include, the royalties paid by oil and gas producers to the mineral owners of the produced oil or gas.
On the issue of profits, it is worth noting that ExxonMobil, for example, the largest corporation in the US, reported 2008 total profits of $45.2 billion dollars. Expressed as a percentage of total revenue ($442.85 billion), this represented 10.2%. By comparison, Microsoft reported 29.3%; CocaCola 18.2%; Johnson&Johnson 20.3%; Pfizer 16.8%; and last, but certainly not least, PhillipMorris @ 26.8%. So, let's pose a rhetorical question, "Who is the better corporate citizen, ExxonMobil or PhillipMorris?"