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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fuel prices have shot up and stayed high. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday were laying blame for rising gas prices on executives from BP, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil and others. Meanwhile, everyday Americans are feeling the pressure. Amna Nawaz reports.
With gas prices above $4 a gallon, Democrats grilled some top oil executives on Capitol Hill today. And they, in turn, denied allegations of price-gouging.
Amna Nawaz has the story.
Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ):
We're here to get answers from the big oil companies about why they're ripping off the American people.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill today laying blame for rising gas prices on executives from BP, Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil, and more.
Rep. Frank Pallone:
At a time of record profits, big oil is refusing to increase production to provide the American people some much needed relief at the gas pump.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, fuel prices have shot up and stayed high. Gas prices jumped from $3.53 a gallon before Putin's invasion to $4.31 a gallon three weeks later.
They have since slipped slightly to $4.17 a gallon this week. Meantime, the price of crude oil has fallen from a peak of $127 a barrel in early March to around $101 today.
Even before the invasion, oil company profits had reached record highs. Last year, ExxonMobil's net profits were more than $23 billion, while Chevron netted $15.6 billion, its most profitable year since 2014.
Rep. Diane Degette (D-CO):
But you know something? It's not just about the shareholders. The American people, who we represent, provide the industry with more than $30 billion a year in subsidies, while the oil and gas companies report record high profits and while American families are forced to pay record high prices at the pump.
Oil executives pushed back on the Democratic claims, saying it's all about basic economics.
Darren Woods, CEO, ExxonMobil:
No single company sets the price of oil or gasoline. The market establishes the price based on available supply and the demand for that supply.
While Chevron's CEO suggested producers don't have as much say in getting gas prices back down.
Michael Wirth, CEO, Chevron:
We do not control the market price of crude oil or natural gas, nor of refined products like gasoline and diesel fuel.
The hearing came as Democrats try to show voters they're working to bring down fuel prices amid fears inflation could mean heavy losses at November's midterm elections.
In a bid to relieve pain at the pump, President Biden last Thursday ordered the release of a million barrels of oil a day from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
President Joe Biden:
Our prices are rising because of Putin's action. There isn't enough supply. And the bottom line is, if we want lower gas prices, we need to have more oil supply right now.
The president also sought to put pressure on the oil companies.
This is not the time to sit on record profits. It's time to step up for the good of your country, the good of the world.
Back at today's hearing, Republicans argued that President Biden's climate policies are making things worse.
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA):
It is impossible to generate confidence or investment in production today when future production is clearly being blocked by this administration.
Meanwhile, everyday Americans are feeling the pressure. In a recent poll, respondents listed gas prices as their top concern, with 68 percent saying they were — quote — "very concerned."
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.
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Amna Nawaz serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour.
Courtney Norris is the deputy senior producer of national affairs for the NewsHour. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @courtneyknorris
Tommy Walters is an associate producer at the PBS NewsHour.
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