Oil executives testify about profits and prices — but not under oath

Did Senate Republicans learn something from the Scooter Libby indictment after all?

Topics: War Room, Ted Stevens,

Maybe Republicans in the Senate have learned something from the perjury case against Scooter Libby after all. When oil company executives appeared today before a Senate hearing on energy prices and profits, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens refused to place them under oath.

Daniel Inouye, the ranking Democrat on the Commerce Committee, said that oil companies should want their testimony to come with a sworn statement that they’re telling the truth. “If I were a witness, I would prefer to be sworn in so the public knows what I was about to say is the truth,” CNN quotes Inouye as saying. “If I were a witness, I would demand to take the oath.”

But representatives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP, Conoco and Shell didn’t make that demand, and Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, didn’t push it. “There is nothing in the standing rules to require that witnesses be sworn,” Stevens said. “These witnesses accepted the invitation to appear before the committee voluntarily. I shall not administer an oath today.” Stevens said that witnesses before Congress are under a legal obligation to tell the truth whether they’re sworn in before testifying or not.

Once the executives began testifying at today’s joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Energy committees, they defended, as expected, their massive third-quarter profits. Lee Raymond, whose Exxon Mobil Corp. earned nearly $10 billion in the third quarter, said that he understood that high gas prices have “put a strain on Americans’ household budgets.” But he insisted that his company’s profits were both legitimate and appropriate, saying that petroleum earnings “go up and down” each year, and that the oil companies are entitled to take the good along with the bad.



It’s not clear what, if anything, will come of the Senate hearings. As much as anything else, high gas prices have hurt the president’s standing with Middle America, and Republicans in Congress realize that they need to offer at least the appearance of concern. Pete Domenici, the Republican senator from New Mexico, said that there is “growing suspicion that oil companies are taking unfair advantage,” and that the companies “now owe the country an explanation.” But as the oil companies report huge profits, Republicans in Congress might owe the country an explanation, too — for why they pushed through an energy bill in the spring that offered billions of dollars’ worth of tax breaks for energy producers, and for why they responded to the spike in gas prices after Hurricane Katrina with a bill that would have provided federal insurance for oil companies whose projects are stalled by lawsuits or regulatory delays.

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>