Gov. holds hearing to question oil companies’ record profits

Gov. Jim Doyle convened a hearing on gas and oil profits held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education Wednesday afternoon. 




Doyle subpoenaed the top five oil-producing companies in the United States'Exxon Mobile, British Petroleum, Shell Oil, Conoco Phillips and Chevron'to testify on the record profits reported by their companies for the fiscal third quarter, especially considering Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had supposedly caused them considerable losses.  




However, energy prices continue to rise. Wisconsinites with an average income of $40,000 will pay an increase of $2,000 more to heat their homes with natural gas this winter than last year, according to Doyle. 




'Why, in the wake of Katrina did gas prices go up 60 cents in a day, when the shortages reported never actually materialized'? he asked. 




He also reminded attendees that the state 'can't change what happens, but can ask the questions.'  




Doyle said he intends to pass the information gathered by the committee onto the Congress and potentially the president. 




Following Governor Doyle's remarks, the committee, led by Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Rod Nilsestuen proceeded to swear in the representatives of the oil companies.  




During a Nov. 9 hearing, oil executives had not been required to swear in, as they had appeared voluntarily. In this instance, there was no guarantee of the validity of their testimony, since perjury could not be committed if not under oath. 




During the testimony, all five representatives claimed the price hikes and profit margins were due to supply-and-demand market forces.  




'We would prefer that prices not jump around as much as they do,' said Nancy Carter, senior vice president of United States Fuels, Logistics for British Petroleum. 'Supply and demand set the price, not BP or any other company.'  




The topics also included natural gas, used to heat 70 percent of the homes in the Upper Midwest. Prices on this commodity went from the previous cost of $7 per 1 million BTUs one year ago to the current price of $11.73, with a market prediction of an increase to over $12. This increase is what would most affect students, since it is what is most likely to be seen on gas and heating bills next semester.

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