U.S. lawmakers slam Big Oil for high gas prices

STORY:

"Shell does not set or control the price of crude oil."

"We do not control the market price of crude oil."

"no single company sets the price of oil or gasoline."

U.S. oil executives were on the defensive on Wednesday, fending off charges of price-gouging leveled by lawmakers in a hearing on Capitol Hill.

U.S. gasoline prices climbed further after Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February.

Prices at the pump hit a record $4.33 a gallon on March 11, but have since retreated.

The Democratic chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Diana DeGette decried what she described as energy companies lining their pockets while Americans are emptying theirs.

"The oil and gas companies report record high-profits and while American families are forced to pay record-high prices at the pump."

Republican lawmakers took aim at a different target: The administration of Democratic president Joe Biden, who they accused of restricting energy production in the name of combating climate change.

Here's Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State:

"This is the Biden price hike, and it's been a steady climb since he took office."

Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith said recent White House efforts to boost production in the face of high prices were insufficient.

"A temporary green light to produce oil from the Biden administration will not undo the damage and the layers of red tape and aggressive anti-fossil-fuel policies driving gas prices to new highs."

Democrats such as Joe Pallone of New Jersey pressed the energy executives to do more for American consumers.

"The bottom line is that you set the wholesale price and that's the biggest part of the retail price. So don't tell us that you can't do anything about it. You can do something about it."

But Shell USA President Gretchen Watkins pushed back.

"Shell does not set or control the price that consumers pay. Indeed it would be illegal for Shell to do so because nearly all Shell-branded retail stations in the U.S. are owned by independent operators who set their own prices in the marketplace."

The executives detailed their plans to increase production.

Darren Woods, the chairman and chief executive of Exxon - the top U.S. oil company - told lawmakers his firm was in no way seeking to profit off Americans' pain.

"We know that today's high prices at the pump are hurting Americans."

Exxon on Monday reported its best quarterly results in seven years.