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Energy Execs Ghost Democrat-led Gas Price Hearing After Deluge of Rhetoric Riddled by Profit Shaming

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: March 30, 2022
After facing profit shaming, a trio of energy executives declined to testify before a House committee on America's gas prices problem.
Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental Petroleum, speaks during the 23rd World Petroleum Congress conference on Dec. 8, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Hollub, including peers Rick Muncrief and Ezra Yacob of Devon Energy and EOG Resources, ghosted the Democrat-led House Natural Resources Committee’s demand to testify before Congress as to why they won’t subsidize high gas prices in the place of the Federal Government. (Image: Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A trio of CEOs from some of America’s largest fossil fuels companies quietly declined to testify at a Democrat-led House committee hearing on high gas prices after being delivered an invitation letter rife with rhetoric shaming the companies’ profitability. 

As high gas prices, sometimes exceeding $6 per gallon, shocked North American citizens at the pump this month, on March 18, House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) beckoned the CEOs of Devon Energy Corporation, Occidental Petroleum, and EOG Resources to appear on April 5 to testify before Congress. 

In a statement saturated with political dogma, the HNRC said the purpose of the meeting “will examine the fossil fuel industry’s failure to help stabilize American gasoline prices, which have skyrocketed in the weeks following Vladimir Putin’s brutal and deadly attack on Ukraine.”

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Grijalva made it clear that the April 5 session was neither an olive branch nor an opportunity for lawmakers to exercise diplomacy with industry leaders in finding a solution for escalating prices of the nation’s essential consumables.

Instead, the Chairman took aim at the industry for “currently sitting on millions of acres of non-producing leases and hold[ing] more than 9,000 approved, but unused permits for drilling on public lands and waters.”

Occidental CEO Vicki Hollub, Devon Energy CEO Rick Muncrief, and EOG Resources CEO Ezra Yacob were targeted by the HNRC because their companies “are among the top oil and gas leaseholders and have the most unused permits.”

The invitation letters sent to the chiefs and signed by Chairman Grijalva read like a word salad of Neocon-Democratic Socialist political rhetoric.

Unsurprisingly. the first paragraph is devoted to lip service denigrating Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, and the second dedicated to repeating President Joe Biden’s narrative that his administration “can’t do much right now” to abate pressure at the pumps because “Russia is responsible” espoused at a press conference on March 8 after Biden outlawed Russian oil imports

Biden’s decree saw WTI Crude hit a peak of $129 per barrel the same day, prices not seen since 2008.

Grijalva’s prolixity contained quotables such as, “While there is no denying that Putin’s war has led to instability on global energy markets,” “Within hours of Putin’s initial attack, the oil industry started pushing out press releases and talking points,” and, “We heard nothing about industry’s plan to protect Americans from bearing the cost of Putin’s war at the pump.”

Notably, the Chairman did make a point of chastising each company individually for both enjoying a profitable 2021 after enduring a bear market that started in 2014 and not personally bearing the Federal Government’s responsibility to manage commodity prices in the face of international conflict and geopolitical tensions.

The Chairman wagged at Yacob that he “bragged on [his] February annual earnings call” about 2021 being a record setting year, harped on Muncrief by stating “your company touted incredible cash flows” with a 2021 that resulted in $2.5 billion in profits, and criticized Hollub when stating, “Instead of taking steps to reduce gas prices, your company instead wants to prioritize $3 billion in stock buybacks and increase dividends in 2022.”

Each letter further contained an ill-formatted standout paragraph, “With the facts laid bare, it is clear that we are once again hearing the same old demands for more leases and looser regulations that have been repeated for decades. These arguments have nothing to do with countering Putin’s invasion or stabilizing gas prices, and everything to do with making oil and gas development as easy and profitable as possible for the benefit of CEOs and wealthy shareholders.”

Notably, all three Chief Executives and their corresponding media relations departments maintained ardent silence in response to the HNRC’s summons.

On March 29, the Committee released a statement announcing the session would be canceled after the executives “refused to testify.”

“The hearing would have examined the fossil fuel industry’s failure to help stabilize gas prices during the ongoing crisis in Ukraine despite their record profits,” it said.

Grijalva didn’t miss a beat, “As rising gas prices started hurting Americans, fossil fuel industry trade groups and their allies in Congress wasted no time placing blame on the Biden administration and pushing for a drilling free-for-all. But when you look at oil companies’ record profits, these claims don’t add up,” he stated.

The Chairman characterized the trio as being given an opportunity to “make their case,” lamenting that “apparently they don’t think it’s worth defending.”

In the grouse, he also disdained calls from the oil and gas sector to loosen regulations and green light drilling permits to increase production at a time when fossil fuels have become a seller’s market as merely “another age-old attempt to line their own pockets.”