Answering Aunt Edna

Who Owns Big Oil?

“Big Oil” is a topic Aunt Ednas love to bring up. So let’s set the record straight, once and for all.

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Who owns “Big Oil”?

The Answer: Chances are it’s “you.”1  Through mutual fund accounts, IRAs or personal retirement accounts, or a pension plan, Americans invest in oil and natural gas stocks. Only 2.9 percent of industry shares are owned by corporate management and the rest are owned by tens of millions of Americans.2

Aren’t people getting out of oil stocks?

If Aunt Edna has a public pension plan, she may have heard about proposals to divest stock in oil and natural gas companies. Divestment proposals like this are often politically motivated and not based on sound financial decision-making.

The fact is that state pension fund investments in oil and natural gas companies provide strong returns for teachers, firefighters, public safety officers, and other public pension retirees. A report found that while oil and natural gas stocks comprised 4 percent of public employee pension plan holdings, they made up 8 percent of the returns, outperforming other investment classes by two-to-one.3

Whether we’re experiencing a good economic environment or a challenging one, oil and natural investments often beat other public pension holdings, providing stable returns to millions of Americans counting on their nest eggs as well as to governments that have substantial pension obligations.4

For more information on this topic visit, a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Action Item

Show Aunt Edna the infographic above next time she brings up “Big Oil” and remind her that millions of Americans have a stake in the oil and natural gas industry’s success.

  1. “Who Owns Big Oil? The Answer Might Surprise You.” website, a project of the American Petroleum Association.
  2. Robert J. Shapiro and Nam D. Pham, “The Financial Contribution of Oil and Natural Gas Investments to Public Employee Pension Plans in Seventeen States, Fiscal Years 2005-2013,” SONECON, April 2015.
  3. Id.
  4. Id.

‘Answering Aunt Edna’ is a recurring series that is designed to help CAN members answer tough questions from their friends, family and neighbors.