Associated Press reports that the chiefs of five major oil companies defended the industry's huge profits last week at a Senate hearing where they were
exhorted to explain prices and assure customers they're not being gouged. Their response is enough to make you choke on the gas you're putting in your tank.
There is a "growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage," Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said, opening the hearing in a packed committee room.
"The oil companies owe the American people an explanation," he declared.
Lee Raymond, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., said he recognizes that high gasoline prices "have put a strain on Americans' household budgets" but he defended his company's huge profits, saying petroleum earnings "go up and down" from year to year.
ExxonMobil, the worlds' largest publicly trade oil company, earned nearly $10 billion in the third quarter. Raymond was joined at the witness table by the chief executives of Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, BPAmerica Inc., and Shell Oil Company.
Together the companies earned more than $25 billion in profits in the July-September quarter as the price of crude oil hit $70 a barrel and gasoline surged to record levels after the disruptions of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Raymond said the profits are in line with other industries when earnings are compared to the industry's enormous revenues.