As we've noted before, these may be tough times for regular folks filling up at the pump -- but things couldn't be better for Big Oil. Here are the first quarter earnings announced by the leading energy oligopolies:

Exxon/Mobile: Up 44%
BP: Up 35%
Shell: Up 42%
Unocal: Up 69%
Marathon: Up 26%

Why the fattening wallets? Isn't it because of tight supply?

A quick visit to the Energy Department's This Week in Petroleum website tells you what the oil companies are paying for crude oil, and what the spot market price is (for those incidental users who don't or can't buy under long term contract). You'll note there's about a $10/bbl differential.

So the gasoline prices are not high because the oil companies are paying high prices for crude oil. The gasoline prices are high because the oil company shareholders want higher dividends.

(Thanks to JM)