The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Who Owns Big Oil?

… The Answer Might Surprise You

If you’re wondering who owns “Big Oil,” chances are good the answer is “you.” If you have a mutual fund account, and 59 million U.S. households do, there’s a good chance it invests in oil and natural gas stocks. If you have an IRA or personal retirement account, and 46 million U.S. households do, there’s a good chance it invests in energy stocks. If you have a pension plan, and 61 million U.S. households do, odds are it invests in oil and natural gas.

Contrary to popular belief, and what some politicians might say, America’s oil companies aren’t owned just by a small group of insiders. Only 2.9 percent of industry shares are owned by corporate management. The rest is owned by tens of millions of Americans, many of them middle class.

A strong oil and natural gas industry is a vital part of the retirement security for millions of Americans. State pension fund investments in oil and natural gas companies are providing strong returns for teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public pension retirees, according to a Sonecon study. Returns on oil and natural gas assets in the top two state funds in 17 states, which include more than half of all the people covered by state and local pension plans in the U.S., averaged $2.30 for each dollar invested compared to $1.68 for other assets in these funds from 2005 through 2013.

The oil and natural gas industry is a major contributor to the health of these funds, many of which face huge future payout obligations. While oil and natural gas stocks made up 4 percent of public employee pension plan holdings, they accounted for 8 percent of the returns, outperforming other investment classes by two-to-one. During good economic times, or challenging ones, oil and natural gas investments far outperformed other public pension holdings.

Putting Earnings in Perspective