President of Shell USA Says Local Gas Stations Responsible for High Prices

Oil and gas executives that testified before Congress today claimed that they had little control over the record high gas prices reported across the country in recent months, and said the price is often set by local stations or "supply and demand."

Executives for Shell USA, Exxon Mobil and Chevron, among others, were questioned Wednesday by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, according to Reuters.

Shell USA President Gretchen Watkins said her company does not own or control the pricing of the 13,000 gas stations across the country that they supply with gas, and said local gas stations are responsible for setting prices.

Several members of the committee asked the executives why gas prices were above $4.00 per gallon for much of the country, according to AAA, even though oil prices have dipped in recent days.

Gas Prices Shell Exxon
Oil and gas executives testified before Congress Wednesday, claiming that their companies have little control over the price of gas. Above, a Shell gas pumping station is seen on April 1, 2022, in Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Democrats on the committee asked why the prices were still so high, accusing the oil companies of not increasing production and oil drilling in favor of increased profits because of the high gas prices, while Republicans have directed the blame for the higher prices at President Joe Biden's environmental policies and restrictions on drilling.

Last week, Biden announced plans to release about 180 million barrels of oil over the next six months to combat what he has called "Putin's price hike," blaming Russia's invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions—including some countries banning imports of Russian oil—for disrupting the global oil economy and raising oil and gas prices.

However, the executives who spoke before Congress Wednesday said the prices are more complex, and changes in oil prices usually take time to impact gas prices, adding that supply and demand is typically a more important factor than oil prices.

"Changes in the price of crude oil do not always result in immediate changes at the pump," Chevron executive Mike Wirth said, Reuters reported. "It frequently takes more time for competition among retail stations to bring prices back down at the pump."

Other executives like Exxon CEO Darren Woods made similar comments, The New York Times reported, emphasizing that the demand for gas has outpaced the supply in recent months, especially as the future of oil and gas supply is uncertain with the conflict in Ukraine.

"No single company sets the price of oil or gasoline," Woods said, according to Reuters. "The market establishes the price based on available supply, and the demand for that supply."

The executives also said their companies were planning to increase production over the rest of 2022, as Wirth said that Chevron is planning to split investments between increasing oil and gas production and developing renewable energy sources.

Global organizations have also placed an increased emphasis on calling for larger investments into renewable, clean energy sources recently, as the United Nations (U.N.) and World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this week released reports on climate change and air quality, respectively.

The U.N. said that unless world governments worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, the world is on a "fast track" to climate disaster. WHO also released a report this week, which analyzed data from over 6,000 cities across 117 countries, that found nearly every person on the planet lives somewhere with air quality that does not meet WHO air quality recommendations.

Update 4/6/22, 6:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information and background.