Congress has big questions for big oil - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Congress has big questions for big oil

Washington_Top executives of the five biggest American oil companies say they know consumers are feeling the pain of high gasoline prices. But at a congressional hearing, they deflected any blame, and they argued that their profits - $123 billion last year - were in line with other industries.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., noting the hearing was being held on April Fool's Day, said, "The biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil." The national average cost of gasoline was hitting a record $3.29 cents a gallon.

Shell Oil Co. President John Hofmeister said in remarks prepared for the hearing that he knows "these cost increases are hitting consumers hard." But Hofmeister and executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips rejected that their profits are extreme.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Big Oil is once again being called on the carpet.

Senior executives of the five largest U.S. oil companies were to appear before a congressional committee Tuesday where they were likely to find frustrated lawmakers in no mood for small talk.

"These companies are defending billions of federal subsidies ... while reaping over a hundred billion dollars in profits in just the last year alone," complained Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in previewing the hearing.

The lawmakers were scheduled to hear from top executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which together earned about $123 billion last year because of soaring oil and gasoline prices.

Markey, chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, said he wants to know why, with such profits, the oil industry is steadfastly fighting to keep $18 billion in tax breaks, stretched over 10 years.

He said the executives would be asked to explain how they can get energy prices down in the short run and "in the long run what are they going to do to shift the focus to a renewable energy agenda."

"We have to move beyond this oil economy," Markey said Tuesday on CBS' "The Early Show." "We have to move to a renewable energy economy. ... We can never get out of this trap as long as the oil companies want to hold us hostage to this old agenda."

The House last year and again on Feb. 27 approved legislation that would have ended the tax breaks for the oil giants, while using the revenue to support wind, solar and other renewable fuels and incentives for energy conservation. The measure has not passed the Senate.

The oil industry has argued on Capitol Hill and at the White House that the tax breaks are needed to assure continued investment in exploration, production and refinery expansions. President Bush has promised to veto any such bill, saying that the oil companies should not be singled out.

The threat of nationwide $4-a-gallon gasoline, perhaps this summer, and $100-a-barrel oil is producing strong political reverberations, even as lawmakers acknowledged there is little that Congress can do to bring prices down.

On Monday, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, said that the president should release oil from the government's emergency reserve to put more supplies on the market, saying, "We are quite clearly in the midst of an energy emergency." He noted the bankruptcy of Aloha Airlines, blamed in part on high jet-fuel costs.

The White House has repeatedly rejected use of the oil in the federal Strategic Petroleum Reserve to influence prices.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the large oil companies in Washington, sought Monday to get its message out ahead of the congressional hearing.

Oil company profits in total dollar amounts are huge because the companies are huge and must be so to go up against giant multinational competitors in a global market, API President Red Cavaney said during a conference call with reporters.

In terms of return on investment, "we make an acceptable return" but one in line with other industries, Cavaney argued.

Congressional hearings and the probing of skeptical, frustrated senators and congressmen are nothing new to executives of the biggest oil companies.

In May 2006, the top executives of the same companies to be represented Tuesday were grilled on their spending and investment priorities in light of soaring oil prices. The cost of a barrel of oil at the time was $75.

Two months earlier, executives of many of the same companies were brought before the Senate Judiciary Committee and questioned about the "merger mania" that some senators argued was behind the high oil prices.

In November 2005, the chief executives of the five largest U.S. oil companies sat shoulder to shoulder at a Senate witness table and sought to justify their profits. At the time, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., reflected the views of many of his colleagues when he talked of "a growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage."

By H. JOSEF HEBERT , AP Writer Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

  • Local NewsNewsMore>>

  • Many OK seniors “will not get fed” due to mobile meal program budget cuts

    Many OK seniors “will not get fed” due to mobile meal program budget cuts

    Friday, July 28 2017 12:44 PM EDT2017-07-28 16:44:57 GMT
    (Source AAA)(Source AAA)

    Budget cuts have left many state agencies in crisis mode, including those who provide meals for many elderly people in Oklahoma county. The director of the non-profit Areawide Aging Agency says that before, they were able to absorb those cuts through furloughs, job cuts, fundraisers and even planting a garden with donated labor and materials. But now they say there's simply nothing left to cut except who gets food and who doesn't. 

    Budget cuts have left many state agencies in crisis mode, including those who provide meals for many elderly people in Oklahoma county. The director of the non-profit Areawide Aging Agency says that before, they were able to absorb those cuts through furloughs, job cuts, fundraisers and even planting a garden with donated labor and materials. But now they say there's simply nothing left to cut except who gets food and who doesn't. 

  • EPA’s Scott Pruitt attends town hall in Guymon

    EPA’s Scott Pruitt attends town hall in Guymon

    Friday, July 28 2017 12:33 PM EDT2017-07-28 16:33:32 GMT
    (Source Oklahoma Forestry Service)(Source Oklahoma Forestry Service)

    EPA chief and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is speaking with residents in the state about the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule. He visited with local farmers at a town hall meeting in Guymon, where he clarified the rule. More than 90 local farmers and ranchers attended.

    EPA chief and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is speaking with residents in the state about the repeal of the 2015 Waters of the United States Rule. He visited with local farmers at a town hall meeting in Guymon, where he clarified the rule. More than 90 local farmers and ranchers attended.

  • LANES CLOSED: Semi involved in rollover near Snyder on HWY 62

    LANES CLOSED: Semi involved in rollover near Snyder on HWY 62

    Friday, July 28 2017 12:04 PM EDT2017-07-28 16:04:58 GMT
    Source Janell Rouse HolmesSource Janell Rouse Holmes

    Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed one lane in both directions temporarily on Highway 62 after a semi rolled over near Snyder. The highway is still closed at this time. 7News viewers David Navarro and Janell Rouse Holmes sent us these photos. OHP says this is happening between mile marker 65 and 66 about five miles east of Snyder. Right now, it's not clear why the truck rolled, if anybody was hurt or what the driver was hauling. 

    Oklahoma Highway Patrol closed one lane in both directions temporarily on Highway 62 after a semi rolled over near Snyder. The highway is still closed at this time. 7News viewers David Navarro and Janell Rouse Holmes sent us these photos. OHP says this is happening between mile marker 65 and 66 about five miles east of Snyder. Right now, it's not clear why the truck rolled, if anybody was hurt or what the driver was hauling. 

Powered by Frankly