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VERIFY: Yes, oil company revenues spiked in 2021

A viral Tweet by Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed out that oil companies saw massive jumps in their oil revenues. We dug into the financial reports to Verify.

WASHINGTON — Nationwide, there is a lot of concerns over gas prices, and there's no question as to why. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of regular was $4.24 Tuesday morning. One month earlier, AAA found the average price was $3.53. 

Amid these rising prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) took to Twitter to claim that oil companies have seen massive revenue increases over the last year. He insinuated that these increases are a sign that "big oil companies" are taking "advantage of the war in Ukraine and inflation to make huge profits by jacking up gas prices." 

QUESTION: 

Did the four big oil companies referenced in Sen. Bernie Sander's tweet have massive revenue increases from 2020 to 2021? 

SOURCES: 

ANSWER: 

This is true.

Yes. The revenues did spike in 2021 for the four big oil companies. Our experts said this had everything to do with the decimated revenues of 2020, due to the global pandemic. 

WHAT WE KNOW: 

On March 7, Sen. Bernie Sanders took to social media, to criticize oil companies for their revenue increases in 2021. Sanders listed the revenue increases for these companies, and called for a 'windfall profits tax.'

To Verify this claim, we dug through the annual financial reports for the four big companies referenced in the Tweet. CPA Cari Weston also read through the reports, to confirm the numbers. 

Importantly, Sen. Sander's Tweet referenced revenue, which is different from profit. Revenue only focuses on the money that was collected by the company. 

These reports outline a large increase in revenue from 2020 to 2021 for all four of the companies.  

Exxon: 

According to the financial report, Exxon brought in roughly $285.6B in revenue in 2021. This was a jump of 57%, compared to 2020. 

  • 2021: $285,640,000,000
  • 2020: $181,502,000,000
  • 2019: $264,938,000,000
  • 2018: $290,212,000,000

Chevron: 

According to the latest financial report, Chevron brought in roughly $162.5B in revenue in 2021. This was a jump of 72%, compared to 2020. 

  • 2021: $162,465,000,000
  • 2020 $94,692,000,000
  • 2019: $146,516,000,000
  • 2018: $166,339,000,000

While 72% represents a massive increase, it does not match the number used in Sen. Sander's tweet. Despite numerous emails to the Sanders communications team, our team was unable to get a response. 

CPA Cari Weston confirmed that 72% was the accurate revenue increase, and was unable to identify how the Sanders team got 84%. 

Shell: 

According to the latest financial report, Shell brought in roughly $272.7B in revenue in 2021. This was a jump of roughly 49%, compared to 2020.

  • 2021: $272,657,000,000
  • 2020: $183,195,000,000
  • 2019: 352,106,000,000

BP: 

According to the latest financial report, BP brought in roughly $164.2B in revenue in 2021. This was a jump of roughly 51%, compared to 2020. 

  • 2021: $164,195,000,000
  • 2020: $109,078,000,000
  • 2019: 278,397,000,000

The 51% increase did not match the revenue increase mentioned in the Sanders Tweet. The Tweet claimed that the revenue increase was 45%.

CPA Cari Weston investigated what might explain the discrepancy, and was able to manipulate the numbers into matching the 45%, by only adding up the "Sales and other operating revenues," "Earnings from joint ventures - after interest and tax" and "Earnings from associates - after interest and tax".

Despite numerous emails to the Sander's Communications staff, no response was given, to explain the discrepancy in numbers. 

Why Did Revenue Jump? 

According to a pair of energy experts, the reason for the revenue increases was a pretty simple one; Supply and Demand. 

"The biggest thing that explains that is the rising prices of crude oil," said Mark Finley from the Baker Institute.

Our experts pointed out that in 2020, amid a global pandemic, the demand for oil collapsed, which had obvious impacts on revenue. 

"2020 was a year in which the country largely shut down in terms of transportation," said Robert Weiner, from The George Washington University. "And transportation is the main user of oil." 

Finley pointed out that revenue is purely about how much product is sold. It doesn't factor in costs, like earnings would. 

"If the price of milk goes up by 75%," he said. "You know - revenues of milk producers would go up by 75%." 

Weiner said he did not believe comparing revenues with 2020 was a useful exercise. 

"In some sense, comparing the revenue with a very unusual year doesn't really tell us much of anything," he said. 

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