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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: Got gas price fury? Talk to your local Shell CEO

FROM REUTERS

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Furious about gas prices? Watch for a friendly oil executive coming to a town near you.

Top executives at oil giant Shell (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) have begun a 50-city tour across the United States this summer in hopes of persuading angry consumers that Big Oil is not ripping them off.

The move is the first such effort in the company’s history, as major oil firms try to dampen a U.S. political firestorm over soaring gasoline prices and record earnings for the companies that sell fuel products.

“These are unprecedented times that require unprecedented responses,” John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co., the company’s U.S. arm, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Hofmeister and other Shell executives plan to meet with everyone from average Americans struggling to pay rising prices at the pump to city officials and governors on their tour, which recently kicked off in Dallas.

Notorious for its reclusiveness, the U.S. oil industry in recent months has stepped up a public relations campaign to improve its image and thwart a growing movement in Washington to slap higher taxes on profits.

“The industry and Shell has a responsibility to explain what we do, why we do it and how we do it to the American people, and we don’t do enough of it,” Hofmeister said.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

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