The big news in the US today
has been
the appearance on Capitol
of five of
the big oil company CEOs in front of a Senate Committee in a “let’s get to the
bottom of this” about oil prices and the impact on “ordinary working
Americans”. This comes after the industry announced a collective quarterly
profit of around $US 26 billion – an increase of over 60% coupled with a stock
surge of around 40%, with the biggest of them, Exxon Mobil, posting its largest
quarterly profit in history ($US 10 billion – and Exxon Mobil is privately

So – shareholders
are making plenty of money, probably enough to offset the pain at the bowser –
but the committee was more interested in the impact on – you guessed it –
ordinary working Americans (this phrase, used with monotonous regularity in the
hearings is the local equivalent of our own pollies’ standard “average
Australian” comment).

There was an
interesting exchange where a Senator asked the rhetorical question of why the
Government should not recall $US 2.6 billion worth of industry tax concessions
in the light of the profit announcements, and divert them to “ordinary working
Americans”. Sensing the mood and acknowledging that oil prices had hurt the
punters, Exxon Mobil’s CEO basically said “take it back, it makes zero
difference to us either way.”

The biggest worry
for the oil companies is not removal of the tax concessions however, but a
mooted 50% excise “windfall profit tax.” Translation: The Government is now
going to be a partner in any price gouging you do.

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Meanwhile, the
Republicans continue to lose ground – further evidence of a noticeable shift in
the political sands here, and could provide some hints for Australian