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Oil executives from Shell and Chevron defended themselves from charges by lawmakers that they are gouging Americans via higher gas prices.

Lawmakers grill Shell, Chevron, big oil over high gas prices


As consumers deal with skyrocketing prices for gasoline and other commodities, oil executives defended themselves in Congress from charges by lawmakers that they are gouging Americans, saying that they are boosting energy output and no single company sets the price of fuel. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held the hearing to ask companies why gasoline prices remain elevated even though prices for crude oil, the feedstock for fuels, have dropped.

“One of the things that has confused me … and it’s making people mad, is why are gas prices still high,” asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), chair of the subcommittee. “These prices are constraining our constituents’ budgets and patience.”

U.S. gasoline prices have surged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and after Western countries slapped sanctions on Moscow’s energy exports. Pump prices hit a record, before inflation adjustments, of $4.33 a gallon on March 11, and since then have slipped about 4%, according to AAA.

Executives from Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., BP America, Shell USA, Devon Energy Corp., and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. testified virtually. Chevron’s Chief Executive Mike Wirth said fuel prices are set by market dynamics that companies have little control over.

“Changes in the price of crude oil do not always result in immediate changes at the pump,” Wirth said, adding that “it frequently takes more time for competition among retail stations to bring prices back down at the pump.”

President Joe Biden has been struggling to tackle rising consumer prices at the pumps and at grocery stores, a vulnerability for his fellow Democrats as they seek to maintain razor-thin majorities in both chambers of Congress in the Nov. 8 elections.

The Biden administration’s sanctions on Moscow include a U.S. ban on Russian energy imports, and the president has said the higher fuel prices result partially from Russia’s invasion.

Republicans, including Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), blamed the high pump prices on Biden’s policies, including a decision to revoke a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would have imported crude from Canada.

“It is impossible to generate confidence or invest in production today when future production is clearly being blocked by this administration,” Griffith said.

Democrats have said oil companies are sitting on thousands of leases to drill on public lands.