Ride a bike, or buy stock in Exxon

Gas prices are up again, and Exxon is on track for another record year of profits. And here’s my beef with the situation:

They’re not easing production due to environmental concerns. They’re not plowing that money back into exploration, or developing more efficient extraction, or anything of that nature. They’re buying back their stock. Lots of it. What does this mean to oil-dependent Americans? The world’s most profitable company has realized that they don’t need to find more oil. They don’t even need to look hard. Using their outsize profits to buy back stock increases their share price, with much less risk than digging more holes in the ground.

That’s great if you’re a shareholder, but it sucks if you’re a consumer. Unless you live on a farm and make your own clothes from hemp, chances are that oil prices affect everything you buy, sell, or use every day.

Anyone that is using a bike for transportation, now matter how short the trip, is making a difference not just to the environment and their own health, but to their wallet. And like compounding interest, the savings are going to start adding up quickly over time. There is not going to be a sudden glut of millions of barrels of oil, with a corresponding price drop in gasoline. Refineries are not going to suddenly cut their prices to ease the burden on those businesses and individuals that rely heavily on petroleum products. But the people that pedal their way around town are going to continue to save.

And I’ll keep getting some funky ads served up by Google.