U.S. oil execs defend record profits — again — in Senate testimony

ExxonMobil, Chevron, and the gang took another turn at the Senate’s cotillion yesterday, flirting with the Judiciary Committee and making coquettish demurrals about record profits and price gouging. Unlike November’s fete with the Senate Commerce Committee, this time oil executives were sworn in (no accounting for modern romance). Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), playing hard to get, noted that while oil-company mergers have lowered industry costs, consumers’ costs have increased. Hush, Dianne, whispered the execs; that’s just surging demand and higher world oil prices talking. Winking, Chevron Chair David O’Reilly suggested that “streamlining” — that is, weakening — the process for approving new refineries, or opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, might help execs get in the mood. But when asked by a clearly jealous Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) if an industry earning record billions in profits needed to keep $2.8 billion in subsidies, the execs could only smile shyly.