House Democrats are turning up the pressure on oil companies as high gas prices continue to hurt drivers, with a congressional hearing planned for April to question oil executives.
As Republicans seek to blame President Biden for the pain at the pump – with gas prices nationally at $4.262 per gallon, according to AAA – Democrats have sought to turn the attention away from Biden and place the blame first on Russian President Vladimir Putin and now on big oil companies.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, told Fox News there’s “clear profiteering” from oil companies, pointing to the price of crude oil dropping but gas prices still staying high. Democrats want to see that savings passed onto the consumers, she said.
“We go after corporate America because corporate America is often profiteering,” said Jayapal, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, which counts Squad reps as members.
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After hitting above $123 per barrel shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of crude oil has gradually fallen below $105.
The price of gas has still hovered near the previous record high of $4.33 per gallon, set March 11.
Andrew Gross, an AAA spokesperson, said in a statement that the cost of oil accounts for about 50% of what drivers pay at the pump, but says “this war is roiling an already tight global oil market.”
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Consumers are willing to pay a bit more the pump because of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the US banning Russian oil imports, but Jayapal said it’s time to “hold these oil companies accountable” for profiteering at this “terrible moment of war.”
Meantime, the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., is calling on the CEOs of three fossil fuel companies—EOG Resources, Devon Energy Corporation, and Occidental Petroleum—to testify before Congress on April 5. The hearing will examine the fossil fuel industry’s “failure to help stabilize American gasoline prices,” according to the announcement.
The hearing will take a look at why oil companies are sitting on thousands of permits but not drilling. The committee says fossil fuel companies hold more than 9,000 approved, but unused permits for drilling on public lands and waters.
Republicans have blamed Biden for price hikes, citing domestic oil policies, reliance on foreign oil and increased government spending that they say have driven inflation.
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Texas GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, faulted the Biden administration for its policies. “They are the ones that do not like oil and energy,” Sessions told Fox News. “They are the ones who want to push their climate change agenda.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing energy companies, responded to the political criticism, saying that, “Across the economy, retail prices in many industries go down slower than they go up — this isn’t a new phenomenon.”
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“As we’ve seen in the past, it takes time for changing market conditions to work through the supply chain and for the price of crude oil to be widely reflected in the price we pay at local gas stations, more than 95 percent of which are independently owned small businesses and not operated by oil companies,” American Petroleum Institute senior vice president Frank Macchiarola told FOX Business.
Fox Business’ Paul Conner and Ken Martin contributed to this report.