ICYMI: Big Oil Executives Have No Answers on Their Wartime Profiteering That Hurt Americans at the Pump
Under questioning by Democrats in the House over egregious profiteering, the C-Suite witnesses denied responsibility for squeezing families even as their profits reach record highs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: April 6, 2022
CONTACT: Addy Toevs, [email protected]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, leaders of six of the largest oil and gas corporations in the world testified at the House Committee on Energy and Commerce about the price gouging that lines their pockets while draining those of working Americans. The executives from bp America, Chevron, Devon Energy, ExxonMobil, Pioneer Natural Resources, and Shell USA Inc., joined remotely, denying responsibility for record-high gas prices as they collect astronomical profits. Instead of committing to finding solutions for high prices and the climate crisis they drive, they used Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and the public’s demand for clean energy as an excuse for the unaffordable prices at the gas pump.
Big Oil-backed Republican representatives tried to spread lies about why prices are high and who is to blame for them and refused to ask these executives any questions on ways to lower costs for American families. But Democrats on the committee would not let them get away with falsehoods that are hurting families.
Here are some highlights from the hearing:
Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) pushed back on the executives’ false claims that their purposeful price gouging campaign is not to blame for high costs at the pump.
- “The way you talk about your business is as if you have no control over anything and that you’re just helpless participants in the global market. But I’m not sure that’s true. Your decisions on whether to increase, sustain, or decrease production affect the price per barrel.”
Representative Raul Ruiz (D-CA) highlighted the disparity between Big Oil executives’ salaries and the salaries of working Americans, pointing out that instead of reducing profits to make gas more affordable, Big Oil is raising them as families flail.
- “These prices are outrageous, and my constituents are struggling at the pump and struggling to make ends meet. I hear from constituents who tell me how the gas prices are putting everything out of reach. They tell me that they’re struggling to afford the gas just to go to work. I’m curious, on your salaries, do any of you have trouble affording the gas to get to your job? I didn’t think so. […] While American families are struggling with high gas prices, you and your Big Oil corporations are making record profits, choosing to keep supply low instead of investing oil in production in the 9000 unused permits. You choose to make more profits for shareholders during this Russian war. You are ripping the American people off and it must end.”
- “Gas prices need to go down and while the rest of America is trying to make this happen, you all are trying to increase your record profit. And gas prices cannot continue to be dependent on the whims of autocrats like Putin who can weaponize oil against us. The solution for now and in the future is transitioning to a clean energy future where we aren’t dependent on oil.”
Representatives criticized the fossil fuel subsidies that have acted as a crutch for the failing oil and gas industry as working Americans struggle to pay for basic energy needs.
- “Oil and gas companies have long benefited from tax breaks like the Intangible Drilling Cost Deduction, and others, that American taxpayers pay billions for every year,” said Representative Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), pointing out the hypocrisy surrounding Big Oil’s record profits made off the backs of American taxpayers. “The companies on this panel alone made $76.4 billion in profits last year. But I know that oil and gas companies are back to raking in profits, they’ve forgotten the American taxpayers, and that they’re partners in the whole history of energy in America. Oil and gas companies, where are they at now when the American public needs help? […] In every past crisis, we’ve been told that increasing domestic production will solve the issue – it hasn’t. The long term solution is not limiting our dependence on foreign oil – not just limiting it – but it is to transition from the current dependence on foreign oil.”
- Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI) said “So the price of oil today is $96.76 for WTI and $101.54 for Brent crude. Given those prices and break-even costs it’s no surprise the oil and gas industry is projected to collect a windfall of up to $126 billion in 2022 alone. And while you break even at as low as $30 per hour and are selling well above $100 the oil industry is also taking billions of dollars of subsidies from the American taxpayer. Subsidies are meant for struggling industries that need taxpayer assistance to operate and remain afloat. With margins like this, it’s not clear to me why you are all getting tax subsidies and taxpayers are paying for it at the pump.”
- Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) said “If the price of oil is set by global markets the American people want to know why we should continue to shower your incredible profitable companies with special tax breaks and subsidies if you aren’t working in the interest of American consumers. Oil companies, like some of those testifying today, get intangible drilling tax breaks […] If these tax breaks are not being used to increase supply and lower prices for American consumers then it’s time to reconsider if tax dollars should just be padding your company’s profits.”
Representatives called out industry executives for using record profits to pay out already-wealthy shareholders rather than investing in boosting production to lower prices and championing the American people.
- Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH) highlighted Big Oil’s corruption, saying “So please don’t use 2020 as an excuse for gouging the American people today. In fact, other than in 2020 all four of the oil majors testifying today made billions of dollars every year between 2017 and 2021. So one bad year does not excuse the practice of ripping off American consumers.”
- “I really feel for the small business owners and the parents trying to get their kids to school everyday. They have supported the ban on Russian oil imports to America. So they are doing their patriotic duty. They’re willing to help the Ukrainian people. And now it’s time for the big oil corporations to do the same,” said Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL). “It’s time for the big oil companies to lower prices rather than pad your bottom line. It is time for you to end the billions of dollars in American funded taxpayer subsidies that are going to support your businesses. It’s time to stop your decades long obstruction of the transition to clean energy which would provide lower costs to consumers[…] it’s really scandalous to see this profiteering at a time when the Ukrainian people and freedom are under attack. And it’s scandalous to watch you year after year as you unleash your lobbyists and the Grand Oil Party to block action to get to true energy security.”
Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA) called out Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield personally for profiting off of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s war crimes against Ukrainian Families.
- “The undeniable reality is that you did sell over 22,000 shares of your company’s stock and pocketed millions from Putin’s attack on Ukraine. Look, today’s witnesses, they’ve talked extensively about industry externalities and the global nature of oil prices that aren’t in their control. Yet at the same time I hear how these same executives and their companies are independently deciding not to invest in new supply or produce more which would drive down gas prices for consumers in order to return value to the shareholder. You may not directly control price, but you do manipulate supply to decrease the amount of product on the market. And you do that to create scarcity, which at the end of the day drives up costs for hard working Americans.
As Big Oil’s allies on the committee villainized clean energy, representatives called for investments in renewables to end American dependence on volatile fossil fuels.
- “We’ve been trying to drill our way towards energy security for decades. We currently have more drilling permits and leases than your companies are even using. But no amount of drilling can change the fact that oil is an unstable global commodity that is completely out of our control” said Representative Yvette Clark (D-NY). “No amount of drilling is going to change this basic underlying reality that oil and gas are finite resources in the marketplace that is largely controlled by dictators and autocrats. And let’s also try to remember that extraction and use of this fossil fuel is pushing our planet to the very brink of climate disaster and it’s already destroying the lives and livelihoods of people of color in black and brown communities across the globe. Now is not the time to drill more. Now is the time to finally wake up to the reality that the only way out of this crisis and all future oil crises is by investing in renewable energy and green energy workforce at the scale needed to achieve a clean energy sector by the year 2035.”
- “The real answer of course is breaking this dependence and addiction on oil and gas. Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy and it’s getting cheaper each year. We’ve got to accelerate the transition to clean energy,” said Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL). “It’s more stable, it’s more affordable, it’s being generated here at home. The House has passed legislation. It’s being blocked, largely by lobbyists aligned with the fossil fuel companies, that would lower the costs of your gas bill, would lower your AC bills, would lower the costs of electric vehicles. […] This is the time we must pivot, especially because the world’s top scientist earlier this week said we are facing a future catastrophe and much higher cost than the pain we are seeing at the pump right now unless we make this break right away. Our time is urgent. We have a moral obligation to our kids and future generations to give them a livable planet and a healthy economy where everyone can thrive.”