Oil executives testify before Congress again

| 3/15/2006

Executives from several U.S. oil companies once again found themselves before Congress on Tuesday, March 14, to defend their billions of dollars in record profits.

Reuters reported that executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConcocoPhillips, Valero Energy Corp., and the U.S. arms of BP Amoco PLC and the Royal Dutch-Shell Group of Companies testified under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The executives were called on to explain the combined profits of more than $100 billion earned by the companies in 2005.

Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson told the committee that acquisitions and mergers have not boosted prices at the pump, Reuters reported. Instead, the executives insisted that increased costs at the pump are because of the rising cost of oil.

Some senators questioned that rational.

“Every time there is a merger prices have gone up. Is that just a coincidence?” asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT.

And Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, said, “We should seriously explore divestiture …”

The oil executives told the committee that opening restricted federal lands and offshore waters to more exploration and drilling would help bring those prices back down.

The hearing was the second time the executives had appeared before Congress. They were also called in fall 2005 to explain skyrocketing prices in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.