Leveling intense criticism at oil companies over skyrocketing energy prices, House Democrats suggested that the CEOs cut dividends and reduce stock buybacks, diverting that money to increasing production. In a hearing Wednesday, Rep. Frank Pallone asked the executives if they'd agree to "doing whatever it takes" to lower prices to consumers, CNN reports. Several said they expect to increase production, but there was no buy-in on slashing dividends or buybacks. One said he "can't commit" on those requests. "The answer is no on dividends," another said.
Democrats were blunt. "During this Russian war, you are ripping the American people off, and it must end," said Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz. Rep. Frank Pallone pointed out that oil companies are allocating $45 billion to stock buybacks and $40 billion to dividends. "That's a lot of money to shareholders," he said, "but it's coming at the expense of the American people, who need you to increase production, not shareholder wealth." The executives argued that the causes of the high gas prices are out of their control, per the Wall Street Journal, and generally tried to deflect blame.
Scott Sheffield of Pioneer Natural Resources Co. laid out a list of industry impediments: "severe cost inflation, a labor shortage due to three downturns in 12 years, shortages of drilling rigs, frack fleets, frack sand, steel pipe and other equipment and materials, and the need for pipelines and LNG facilities." Summoned for the second time in six months, the executives repeated that the global market sets oil prices, per Yahoo News. "We do not control the market price of crude oil or natural gas, nor of refined products like gasoline and diesel fuel, and we have no tolerance for price gouging," said Chevron's Michael Wirth. (Read more oil companies stories.)