WASHINGTON D.C. (KABC) -- With gas prices still near historic highs, Congress took aim at the oil industry Wednesday, grilling the top executives from six major oil companies.
"One bad year does not excuse the practice of ripping off American consumers," said U.S. representative for New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district Ann Kuster to the executives during the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee meeting.
The hearing featured the CEOs from ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and other U.S. oil companies. House members questioning the executives, asking them why gas prices are still at historic highs even after crude oil prices have dropped.
The oil industry blames the jump in prices on increased demand in the market.
"Because oil is a global commodity, Shell does not set or control the price of crude oil," said Gretchen Watkins, the president of Shell USA to the committee. "Similarly, Shell does not set or control the price that consumers pay. Indeed, it would be illegal for Shell to do so because nearly all Shell-branded retail stations in the U.S. are owned by independent operators who set their own prices in the marketplace."
Oil production had already been cut during the pandemic when fewer people were driving, and now the U.S. ban on Russian oil imports has exacerbated the oil shortage.
But Democrats, who are urging the CEOs to boost oil production, accused them of purposely keeping the oil supply low to bump up their profits.
"The bottom line is you set the wholesale price, and that's the biggest part of the retail price," New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone told the industry leaders. "So don't tell us that you can't do anything about it. You can do something about it, and we expect you to do that. Maybe it's a matter of patriotism."
Meanwhile, Republicans on the committee used the opportunity to target President Joe Biden and the Democrats, blaming their policies for driving up the cost of oil.
"Even while gas prices skyrocket, and allied countries cry out for new energy sources," said Rep. Morgan Griffith, the subcommittee's top Republican. "President Biden continues to announce new taxes and initiatives that are designed to shut down domestic production."