Major oil executives refuse to commit to cut buyouts and dividends

During the hearing, Rep. Frank Pallone, a Democrat from New Jersey, asked top leaders from ExxonMobil (XOM)Chevron, BP, Shell, Pioneer Natural Resources and Devon Energy if they commit to “do everything they can” including not only increasing production but cutting dividends and buybacks to lower prices for US consumers.
These questions echoed a letter from Rep. Caroline Maloney and Rep. Ro Khanna this week asking big companies to forgo their buyouts and dividends during the war in Ukraine and cut prices to consumers instead.

None of the leaders agreed to this.

U.S. oil production remains below pre-pandemic levels, even as oil prices have nearly doubled.

“We can increase production and return value to shareholders,” Chevron (CVX) CEO Mike Wirth said in response. HELL (HELL) America CEO David Lawler said he “can’t commit” to cutting buybacks and dividends.
Gretchen Watkins, President shell (RDSA) United States,” said her company, which believes it can return value to shareholders, increase oil supplies and invest in renewable energy. “We will do all of this,” Watkins said.
& Scott Sheffield, CEO Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD), said his company would increase production, but categorically refused to cut dividends. “The answer is no to dividends,” Sheffield said.

Legislators responded with harsh complaints, suggesting that executives should be fully focused on shareholders, especially during the war in Ukraine.

“During this war with Russia, you are robbing the American people and it must end,” said California Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz, who also cited a recent Dallas Federal Reserve poll in which 59% of oil executives said, that investors are forced to maintain the discipline of money management. is the main reason why listed oil producers are holding back growth.

“Gas prices can no longer be subject to the whims of autocrats like Putin who can use oil against us,” Ruiz said.

Meanwhile, Pallone said the oil companies are allocating $45 billion for share buybacks, plus another $40 billion for dividends.

“This is a lot of money for shareholders, but it comes at the expense of the American people, who need you to increase production, not shareholder wealth,” Pallone said. “For the American people to get rid of high gas prices, your companies must do their part and increase production to meet demand.”

But it’s not that simple, Sheffield said during the hearing. He noted that the oil industry is facing challenges like many other industries: a shortage of workers, shortages of supplies and price spikes that are slowing down its ability to ramp up production.

“We are seeing severe supply restrictions. We lack a lot of equipment. The reason we can’t grow faster is because we don’t have enough rigs,” Sheffield said. “We are seeing strong inflation… and we will continue to face severe inflation over the next few years.”

Pioneer’s CEO added that companies are struggling to hire workers, echoing concerns raised by other industries.

“Who wants to come back and work in the oil and gas industry? We can’t bring people back,” Sheffield said, noting that the 2020 oil crash was the latest in a string of downturns in a boom-and-bust industry.

Severing ties with Russia

New York MP Paul Tonko criticized oil and gas companies for investing in Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014, arguing that the projects “helped fill Putin’s military budget.”

Woods, Exxon’s CEO, reiterated that his company plans to close its latest project in Russia, a promise it made a month ago.

“It’s quite difficult because we operate offshore drilling rigs in deep water and environmentally sensitive areas,” Woods said during the hearing. “We are working on this as quickly as possible.”

Asked if Exxon’s investment in Russia is in the interests of the United States, the CEO cited the bilateral support for these ties over the years.

“The administrations of both the Democrats and the Republicans have encouraged our investments as a way to bring Western values ​​to Russia and benefit the Russian people,” Woods said.

Virtu, Chevron’s CEO, has been asked to commit to halt all operations in Russia, including supplies of lubricants and other supplies to Russian companies.

“We have stopped all these sales, and they will not resume for the foreseeable future,” Wirth said.

BP America’s Lawler said that within 96 hours of the invasion, his company announced its intention to exit its stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, writing off up to $25 billion.

“BP was horrified by the military action in the war against Ukraine,” Lawler said. “The company takes our response very seriously.”

Shell is moving “as quickly as possible” towards a total withdrawal from Russia, Watkins said.

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