A list of the biggest businesses on the planet tells much about the state of the world. Half a century ago, that list was dominated by heavy industrials and chemical businesses; during the 1990s it was technology companies that monopolised top positions. Today, Apple sits upon the company throne, a prodigious product of our times or, perhaps more cynically, the consummate forger of our desires. Despite changes in business and upheavals of technology, oil companies are consistently among the biggest, most profitable businesses in the world.
We are all used to thinking of the likes of Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP as giants who dominate their industries (the paranoid among us claim they dominate far more than that) but the truth is very different.