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US oil firms come under pressure

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Lawmakers took oil executives to task over record profits

BBC News: US oil firms come under pressure 

Page last updated at 07:44 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 08:44 UK

US lawmakers have taken oil giants to task over the industry’s huge profits as ordinary Americans struggle with record fuel prices.

Executives from five oil companies were forced to explain why they should continue to receive $18bn in tax breaks when they made $138bn profits in 2007.

They were also criticised for not investing more in renewable energy.

In their defence, the executives said high oil prices were not their fault and the huge earnings were justified.

Executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell testified before a House of Representatives committee.

“Our earnings, although high in absolute terms, need to be viewed in the context of the scale and cyclical, long-term nature of our industry as well as the huge investment requirements,” said J.S. Simon, senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp.

“We depend on high earnings during the up cycle to sustain … investment over the long term, including the down cycles,” he said.

Exxon made $40bn last year, a record for a US company.

Oil prices recently hit a record high of $111.80 and this has translated into higher petrol prices.

Americans now pay a record $3.29 a gallon at the pump.

“On April Fool’s Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil,” Edward Markey, the Democratic congressman who chairs the Energy Committee, told the executives.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7325837.stm

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