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Oil Companies’ Profits to Increase Greatly This Year; People’s Energy-Related Questions to Follow Suit.

by May 5, 2011

The rapid increase in oil prices should equate to the oil industry having its best year since 2008, as reported by Chris Kahn for AP (via ABC). Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhilips are expected to report a combined $18.2 billion in first quarter earnings — a 40% increase from last year and just shy of the $20.2 billion that they earned in the first three months of 2008.

An increase in consumption, the constriction of supply (e.g., Libya’s reserve access is currently limited), and also a weaker US dollar are all speculated to contribute to an increase in oil prices.

While some stand to benefit from the rise in oil prices (shareholders), businesses and consumers will feel the hurt as gasoline prices inflate. Increases in gas prices tend to have ripple effects, increasing the prices of transportation and any good or service that is reliant on transportation — bread, toiletries, DVD players, air plane tickets, etc.

The broad societal effect of an increase in oil prices is precisely what makes this issue of interest to Dialogue Earth.  This will undoubtedly augment expressed sentiment related to energy across social media platforms, such as Twitter.

As people grow increasingly frustrated at the pump, questions about rising oil prices will yield yet more questions; questions about whether there are any viable alternatives to lessen our reliance on oil, how our entire energy system works and even questions about how we get energy.

Earlier this year, we ran a pre-Pulse project to track people’s sentiment surrounding the increasing prices of gas, as their comments appeared on Twitter. You can check out how we performed this process here.  Further, we plan to roll out comprehensive monitoring of mood about gas prices by Memorial Day weekend 2011.

Our energy system is complex, and central to our system, among other heavy hitters like coal and natural gas, is crude oil. Oil is one of the most complex and contentious issues, historically. While at once being the workhorse that pulled our various modern societies away from literal work horses, it has also forced us to be dependent on its concentration of energy and its, until more recently, ease of extraction.

One of our Energy Challenge winners explains the complexity of the US energy system through the eyes of hamsters:

In the future, we’ll be able to use Pulse to glean questions or sentiment that the public has surrounding particular topics, like gas prices, the Apple booth at SXSW or another topic that we previously piloted, weather sentiment.

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