The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Energy Company Earnings

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted April 30, 2010

Publicly traded energy companies have been announcing their first-quarter earnings.


With 10 companies reporting as of April 28, the oil and natural gas industry is averaging earnings of 7.1 cents per dollar of sales. In comparison, Dow Jones Industrial companies are averaging 10.3 cents per dollar. Eighteen of the 30 Dow Jones companies have reported their first-quarter results.

Reports about oil company earnings have tended to focus on the billions of dollars earned each quarter. The earnings are large because the companies are large. Size is an attribute in the energy field, where publicly traded companies have to compete for energy supplies with government-owned or government-supported companies around the globe.

Furthermore, exploring for and producing energy is an expensive undertaking with some wells costing more than $1 billion before any oil or natural gas is produced. Also, oil companies have a significant tax burden. Income tax expenses in 2008 (as a share of net income before income taxes) averaged 53.2 percent, compared to 32.2 percent for the S&P Industrial companies.

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in the three-year 2006-2008 period, the major energy producing companies paid or incurred more than $280 billion in income tax expense.


Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.