News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

February 8, 2006

Pete Chalos: Diligent oversight of utilities an important mission

At the end of January, ExxonMobil Corp. revealed record-breaking profits, the highest quarterly profits ever reported by a public company in the history of America. Exxon’s annual profit was $36.13 billion. That’s a 42 percent rise since last year.

Exxon blames the skyrocketing prices of oil and gas on tensions in oil producing countries and the recent hurricanes. These excuses don’t seem to hold water in light of the fact that Exxon’s oil and gas production only fell 1 percent during the quarter. If you discount the effects of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, production actually rose 2 percent in spite of the war in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., recently called for a congressional investigation into profiteering. Frist said, “If there are those who abuse the free enterprise system to advantage themselves and their businesses at the expense of all Americans, they ought to be exposed, and they ought to be ashamed.”

While oil and utility companies are experiencing a windfall this quarter, companies like Ford Automotive and Kraft Foods are laying off workers by the thousands. The price of fuel, heating and cooling, and producing products derived from petroleum (including anything plastic, chemical solvents, etc.) has gone through the roof. Oil companies have made their record profits at the expense of other industries and at the expense of American workers. I agree that they should be ashamed.

Any company involved in producing plastics, packaging (CD cases, plastic bags, etc.) and shipping has been hit hard. This includes many of our Terre Haute companies. Bemis, the largest manufacturer of polyethylene film in the United States, and AET, the largest manufacturer of polypropylene film in the U.S., have felt the sting along with other local plastics manufacturers like Ampacet, Tredegar and Jadcore.

DADC, one of our largest employers, uses plastic in the production of compact discs and cases. The price of oil factors into shipping costs as well, affecting the page and a half of trucking firms in our local phone book. Terre Haute is certainly feeling the sting of excessive profiteering on the part of the gas and oil industry.

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