Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Congressional criticism

The spectacle of oil company executives testifying before Congress on the price of gasoline was just that — a spectacle full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Congressional lawmakers do not have the guts — or the votes, for that matter — to do anything about the profit-gouging behavior of multinational oil companies. Even if the new Democratic majority in Congress wanted to do something, such as passing a proposal now before them to repeal $18 billion in tax breaks, President Bush would surely veto it. Bush is still the president, and everybody knows where his sympathies lie. Executives from five companies — Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell testified Tuesday before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to explain their record profits while the price of fuel paid by U.S. citizens soared to new highs. "The American people deserve answers and it is time for Big Oil to go on the record about these record prices," said Chairman Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and a longtime oil industry critic. The executives said prices were rising because the price of crude has increased more than 500 percent since 2002. "Given that the largest contributor to the cost of gasoline is crude oil, this has translated into record-high gasoline prices," Peter Robertson, vice chairman of No. 2 U.S. oil company Chevron, said in testimony. Rep. John Boehner, the Republican leader, called the hearing "politically motivated" and "made for TV." Boehner was right on both counts, although it's hard to see how politically motivated is a bad thing. The citizens of the country are demanding answers, and their elected representatives are trying to respond. And the Republican leadership takes that as some kind of insult? No wonder nothing gets done in Washington.

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