Congress Grills Oil Execs on Pump Prices

WASHINGTON(Reuters) – Five U.S. oil company executives appeared on Capitol Hillon Tuesday to explain why they were not to blame for record-highgasoline pump prices even as they reported $123 billion in profits in2007.

U.S. average pump prices have risen steadily since the beginning of2008 and on Monday hit a new record of $3.29 a gallon, heaping yet morepressure on a U.S. economy beleaguered by an imploding housing marketand recession fears.

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, a long-time oil industry critic andchairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence andGlobal Warming, called the hearing entitled "Drilling for Answers: OilCompany Profits, Runaway Prices and the Pursuit of Alternatives."

Markey supports legislation that would strip about $18 billion intax breaks from the five biggest U.S. oil companies and put them towardplanet-friendly energy alternatives like wind and solar. Suchlegislation has passed the House of Representatives twice, but hasstalled in the Senate.

"The American people deserve answers and it is time for Big Oil to go on the record about these record prices," Markey said.

Executives from Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, BPPlc and Royal Dutch Shell, said factors beyond their control had drivenprices up — mainly crude oil prices that have leapt over five-foldsince 2002 to a record $111.80 a barrel last month.

"Given that the largest contributor to the cost of gasoline is crudeoil, this has translated into record-high gasoline prices," PeterRobertson, vice chairman of Chevron, the second-biggest U.S. oilcompany behind Exxon, said in testimony.

Stephen Simon, senior vice president of Exxon Mobil, said punitivemeasures against U.S. oil companies would only strain supplies further.

"Imposing punitive taxes on American energy companies … willdiscourage the sustained investments needed to continue safeguardingU.S. energy security," Simon said in testimony.

(Reporting by Chris Baltimore; editing by Jim Marshall)


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