By Christy Goldfuss, Public Lands Project Director at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
For the seventh time in a row, Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing where he pushed for more domestic production of oil and gas, a proposal known to benefit Big Oil with little impact on gas prices. His colleague on the Committee, Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA), whose largest single industry contributor is oil and gas, took the opportunity at the hearing to defend the profits of Big Oil.
He and other Republicans argued that the profit margin for major oil companies is commensurate with other industries. But in 2010, Exxon Mobil had $30.9 billion, Shell had $18.28 billion, and Chevron had $19.29 in profits. Bill Graves from the American Trucking Association had to “agree to disagree” with that reasoning.
Big Oil also was defended by the Republican majority witness from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karen Alderman Harbert. When Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) asked whether Harbert supported the billions of taxpayer subsidies that go to Big Oil, she refused to give a yes or no answer. She instead tried to squeeze in a pitch for why Big Oil subsidies are necessary, even with billions in profits. She feels that denying those subsidies would be unfairly, “singling out the oil and gas industry and penalizing it.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also supports oil speculators, by pushing to repeal the new authority that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has to police speculation under the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The Democratic minority invited witness from the Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America, Inc., noted that “the fastest way to $6 a gallon is to cut the funding to the CFTC.”
To sum up, the House Natural Resources Committee is doing a great job defending Big Oil with hearings on issues that benefit Big Oil, with Republican members that ask questions and make statements in defense of Big Oil, and the Republican invited witnesses that support Big Oil.