Minnesota. Rep. Angie Craig was among the lawmakers to question oil executives about rising gas prices amid Russia’s ongoing invasion in Ukraine.
At a Wednesday meeting with the House’s Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Minnesota's 2nd District representative spoke to representatives from oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron.
The Democrat was critical of the executives, accusing them of taking advantage of the various crises to "gouge" Americans at the pumps.
“The six oil companies testifying at today’s hearing collectively generated more than $76 billion in profit in 2021 – and first quarter numbers look even higher for 2022,” Craig said in her opening remarks.
“I don’t fault you for making money. You’re a business. But we’ve got a pandemic and we’ve got Putin. And you are using these crises to price gouge the American people. You are using these crises to gouge my constituents.”
Gas prices remain high despite drop in oil costs
Russia’s ongoing invasion into Ukraine has caused uncertainties around the global fuel supply. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports last month following the invasion. And the Senate is expected to vote on a bill to codify that ban Thursday, according to NBC News.
Gas prices in Minnesota climbed more than 30 cents in the week after the invasion, from an average of $3.452 per gallon to an average of $3.771 per gallon.
Oil prices recently hit a three-week low after a surge following the invasion. But prices began to rise again Thursday, with the U.S. West Texas Intermediate, the country’s oil price benchmark, rising 0.9%, to $97.09 per barrel, according to Reuters.
But while oil prices have dropped since the early days of the invasion, there hasn't been a corresponding fall in the pumps, prompting complaints like those expressed by Rep. Craig.
According to the American Automobiles Association, the average price at the pumps in Minnesota as of Thursday was $3.862 per gallon. The average is very slightly lower than last week’s, which was $3.911 per gallon.
The average price in the Twin Cities as of Thursday was $3.888 per gallon compared to $3.934 per gallon last week.
To combat rising prices, Biden has also ordered the release of 1 million barrels of oil per day from the petroleum reserve for six months, according to ABC News.
Some oil companies have admitted during investor calls that they are reluctant to ramp up oil production, partly because of supply chain issues, but also because some are prioritizing its shareholders and bottom lines over consumers.
That said, the wrangle over gas prices comes at a time that global scientists have called for an immediate and significant reduction in fossil fuel use, giving nations just three years to hit peak emissions before setting a target to halve them by 2030 to prevent climate catastrophe.