Heads of Big Oil grilled on gas prices

BURBANK Oil prices dipped slightly Tuesday, but they're still hovering over $100 a barrel, and the drop will have no effect on prices you pay to fill up your car.

That means pain at the pump continues with no relief in sight. Some are trying to do something about it, but most efforts at mounting protests are feeble at best.

Independent truckers, who are now paying over $4 a gallon for diesel fuel, had called on fellow drivers to pull over and park their big rigs, but the protest was spotty. Few, if any, truckers joined in, but that doesn't mean there isn't anger out there among truckers and motorists.

"It's insane. It's a lot," said Marie Pennington, a driver who just filled her tank.

In L.A. County, gas prices have jumped 19 cents in the last month and 36 cents in the last year -- a story told across the country.

A special committee of the House called the big men of big oil to testify Tuesday morning. "So on April Fool's Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil by using every trick in the book to keep billions in federal tax subsidies, even as they rake in record profits," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said as his committee began hearing from the oil company executives.

The heads of Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP America Inc., Chevron and Conoco Phillips justified the $19 billion in tax breaks they currently enjoy and argued it would be a mistake to rescind the windfall.

"Imposing punitive taxes on American energy companies, which are already paying record taxes, will discourage the sustained investments needed to continue safeguarding U.S. energy security," said J.S. Simon of Exxon Mobil.

It's not an easy argument to sustain, considering oil companies combined earned $123 billion in profits last year. The Democrat-controlled Congress wants to wipe out the tax breaks and spend the money on renewable energy initiatives.

"Why is Exxon Mobil resisting the renewable revolution that is being embraced by other companies even in the oil and gas sector," Markey asked.

Simon responded, "Our analysis is that we are not going to be able to meet the challenge that you would like to meet, and I would like to meet, for the current generation. That's our assessment."

Gary Pike, who was filling a big SUV at a local gas station, said he sees a smaller alternative energy car in his future, even if the men from Big Oil can't.

"I'll drive a battery-powered car, as long as it gets me there and back without running out of charge," Pike said.

All the oil companies execs said they are pushing conservation in their advertising on television and in the newspapers. One said America needs to become a nation of energy savers.

They say only by dampening demand or drastically increasing supply will those prices come down, but that's not apt to happen soon.


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