Oil companies report soaring profits

Meanwhile, oil giant Exxon Mobil reported second-quarter profits of $10.68 billion, a 41 percent increase from the second quarter of 2010.

The company attributes the profits to “higher crude oil and natural-gas realizations, improved downstream results and continued strength in chemicals.”

The news comes just two days after BP posted a second-quarter profit of $5.6 billion. While the number was lower than many analysts predicted, it is a significant turnaround from the company’s $17 billion loss last year in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill.

The earnings could energize a group of Democrats in Congress who have been pushing for the repeal of billions in tax breaks for the largest oil companies.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said earlier this week that BP’s profits show that major oil companies don’t need the tax breaks.

"BP's 'disappointing' quarter of only $5.6 billion in profits shows just how absurd their taxpayer subsidies are. Without them, BP would have had to scrape by with just $5.5 billion in profits this quarter,” Menendez said in a statement. “Why some in Congress think BP deserves these extra profits but seniors do not deserve Medicare is beyond me.”

But Menendez acknowledged in a short interview with The Hill on Tuesday that the push to repeal the tax breaks has taken a backseat to high-stakes negotiations aimed at raising the debt ceiling.

“With the debt ceiling sucking the wind out of everything here, it’s hard to get traction going, even though what’s happened in Montana and other places has raised people’s concerns again,” he said, referring to a recent Exxon Mobil oil spill along a Montana river.