Senator Frist Orders Probe Into High Gas Prices
Republican Bill Frist is breaking ranks with the White House.
Amid record-high earnings from oil companies, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Thursday ordered a Senate hearing with testimony from major oil company executives on why energy prices are high.
The unexpected announcement by the chamber's top Republican showed the growing political pressure as American consumers brace for higher winter heating costs at the same time energy companies are reporting fat profits.
"If there are those who abuse the free enterprise system to advantage themselves and their businesses at the expense of all Americans, they ought to be exposed, and they ought to be ashamed," Frist said in a statement.
The Senate leader also asked the chamber's permanent subcommittee on investigations to launch an inquiry into energy price profiteering. "And ultimately, if the facts warrant it, I will support a federal anti-price gouging law," he said. [...]
Frist said he asked the Senate Energy Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a joint hearing to look at the reasons behind energy prices. He did not say if a date has yet been set.
"I have asked them to call as witnesses executives from the major oil companies and representatives of the state attorneys general, who have the initial responsibility of keeping the behavior of local energy providers on the straight and narrow," Frist said. [...]
On Thursday, Exxon Mobil reported third-quarter earnings of $9.9 billion -- one of the largest quarterly profits in U.S. corporate history.
"We need to increase refinement capacity, provide more energy resources, encourage conservation, invest in science and technology, and, most importantly, transition toward energy independence, including the use of more alternative fuels," Frist said.