Under Questioning from Cantwell, Big Oil Companies Pledge to Open Books

Cantwell fighting to make sure Enron-style market manipulation and price gouging isn’t behind sky-high gas prices

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) grilled top oil executives on skyrocketing fuel costs and record profits Wednesday before a joint hearing of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees. At the hearing, oil company CEOs made a commitment to Cantwell to open their books and help shed light on possible price gouging.

"When there’s no transparency, it’s easy for big oil companies to use Enron style accounting to intentionally drive up prices and make a quick buck—or billions of bucks—at the expense of hard working Americans," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Commerce and Energy and Natural committees. "I’m asking oil CEOs to open their books. We need transparency, and we need to make sure there’s no price gouging going on. Our economy depends on it."

Cantwell is concerned that oil companies are creating artificial shortages to drive up prices, and has long called for an investigation into possible price-gouging. She has also authored anti price gouging legislation that is cosponsored by 28 other senators. Cantwell questioned oil company CEOs Wednesday about exporting gasoline during times of record prices, reserve capacities that are far below historic averages, and unregulated trading markets.

"Skyrocketing energy prices hurt families, farmers, and businesses," said Cantwell. "We deserve straight answers, and we deserve transparency. That’s why I’m going to make sure oil executives follow through on their pledge to open their books."

Cantwell blasted executives from Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, and Shell on their record profits in the face of an American economy burdened with skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices. Oil companies recently announced almost $33 billion in third quarter profits and are expected to make over $100 billion in 2005. Exxon/Mobil alone made almost $10 billion last quarter—75 percent more than last year.

Senator Cantwell has long fought on behalf of Washington state consumers to ensure fairness in the energy industry. She fought to make sure Enron did not get off the hook for manipulating the electricity market and bilking consumers out of millions of dollars. Now, Cantwell is fighting to make sure big oil companies are not using similar market manipulation schemes to raid the wallets of hard working American families.

Cantwell leads the Senate Democrats’ Energy Independence 2020 national campaign, working to break America’s overdependence on foreign oil, protect working families from skyrocketing energy costs, and stop unfair market manipulation by energy companies. We must stop price gouging, provide relief from high home heating costs, and invest in reliable sources of affordable fuel. By working toward energy independence, we can protect our environment, jumpstart our economy, and provide for a better future. Together, America can do better.