"Today's report that the price of oil has reached $100 a barrel is just another example of how corporate greed is squeezing the middle class," said Mr. [John] Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, in a statement. "This increase shows the urgency of taking on the big oil companies so we can build a new energy economy."

--The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 3, 2008

You know what? John Edwards is right.

The oil companies are raking in huge profits these days. Their executives and employees are undoubtedly greedy -- how else do you explain their fevered pursuit of relatively high-risk drilling targets? Would you step foot in Kazakhstan or Nigeria? Live on a remote platform miles from the shore? These people are sick. And they keep raising oil prices!

But the former senator who's running for president failed to point out the greediest of all.

Big Oil appears very profitable, but in terms of raking in cash per employee, Small Oil is the true menace.



EBITDA (millions)


EBITDA/Employee (millions)

ATP Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: ATPG)




PetroQuest Energy (NYSE: PQ)




Petrohawk Energy (NYSE: HK)




Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN)




Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY)




ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM)




Chevron (NYSE: CVX)




Data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance.

It looks like the smaller they get, the more insidious the oil companies become. ATP is a three-headed, seven-tentacled, five-fanged profit monster! Its gain is clearly the common person's loss. How can we continue to allow this off-the-radar company to worsen our quality of life?

I suggest that Edwards modify his position slightly and start campaigning against the small oil companies. They clearly need to face a windfall profits tax. That'll show these small-business owners how much damage they're doing to our middle class.