War between Russia and Ukraine: Oil company CEOs set to testify before Congress amid skyrocketing gas prices

WASHINGTON, DC — Six oil company executives are set to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday about skyrocketing gas prices amid a political messaging battle over pump pain.

Executives from BP America, Chevron and ExxonMobil are among the “Big Oil” executives who will take questions from lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The hearing comes as the cost of gas soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting the US to impose an import ban on Russian oil and gas. Although the price of gasoline has fallen slightly in recent days, Americans still paid an average of $4.17 on Tuesday, according to data from the American Automobile Association.

SEE RELATED STORY: Biden Taps Oil Reserves for 6 Months to Control Gas Prices

Politicians on both sides of the aisle continue to argue over who is to blame.

Democrats have worked hard to identify the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the cause of gas price hikes, with President Joe Biden calling it “Putin’s price hike.”

On the other hand, Republicans are quick to argue that the higher costs kicked in long before the war began and that Biden’s energy policies are draining Americans’ wallets. Others accuse oil companies of taking advantage of consumers by not cutting gas prices even though oil prices have fallen.

SEE RELATED STORY: Energy Commissioner says gas prices will fall by at least 30 cents by the end of the week

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told ABC News that the reasons for gas costs are more complex than any of these narratives suggest.

“Too many political games are being played trying to win too many political points. Neither side represents it accurately,” he said. “There’s a lot of factors that go into this, and the politicians on both sides of the aisle use, you know, just catchphrases and phrases and they use re-fought, established talking points of their own parties…”

De Haan also pointed to the “extremely volatile” situation gas companies find themselves in in relation to fluctuating oil prices.

“Broadcasters are currently not trying to lower prices. Not necessarily because they’re greedy or anything, but because the market is extremely volatile,” De Haan said, adding, “if they were to pass on a cut one day, they might have to raise prices another 25 to 50 cents the day after, when the market rises again.”

Instead, he said that “stations are essentially offsetting the incredible volatility, cautiously passing on declines once they’re reasonably confident they won’t have to hike prices again.”

PolitiFact also noted that “experts who study oil and gas prices said it could take weeks for gasoline prices to respond to changes in crude oil costs,” and that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, increased labor costs, the pandemic and additional… Taxes and inflation have all contributed to rising gas prices.”

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, a nonprofit focused on climate policy and holding companies accountable, says Democrats are not wrong in blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The Democrats aren’t coming up with anything to point out that this is a really acute example of what dependence on oil and gas would get you. That is exactly right. And the oil companies don’t care at all,” he said.

But Wiles noted that gas price hikes started long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Oil companies are bad at war and peace,” he said.

ABC News reached out to all six oil companies expected to testify Wednesday, but none offered comment.

As oil company executives face off against members of the House of Representatives, lawmakers are also scrambling to pass legislation to provide immediate relief as a follow-up season fast approaches.

Most recently, Biden announced the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day from oil reserves to combat high gas prices; however, senior White House officials have been unable to say how quickly Americans will feel relief.

At her weekly news briefing last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress wanted to help as long as the benefit goes directly to consumers, likely in the form of a rebate card or direct payment.

And some progressive Democrats are renewing their push toward longer-term investments in renewable energy to end oil dependency.

For their part, House Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee introduced a bill last week that would end the Biden administration’s moratorium on federal onshore and offshore leasehold sales.

Copyright © 2022 ABC News Internet Ventures. War between Russia and Ukraine: Oil company CEOs set to testify before Congress amid skyrocketing gas prices

Dais Johnston

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