Congress questions top oil companies on soaring profits

WASHINGTON

Top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies were pressed yesterday to explain the soaring fuel prices amid huge industry profits and why they weren’t investing more to develop renewable energy source such as wind and solar.

The executives, peppered with questions from skeptical lawmakers, said they understood that high energy costs are hurting consumers, but deflected blame, arguing that their profits – $123 billion last year – were in line with other industries.

“On April Fool’s Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said as his committee began hearing from the oil company executives.

WASHINGTON

Dem leaders debate how to end Iraq War

Democratic leaders returned from their spring break this week to declare that Iraq is in turmoil and that they will continue to try to force President Bush to end the war.

But facing another uphill battle, party members are undecided on whether to try to cut off money or take a softer approach that is more likely to succeed.

They will have to decide soon. Congress has approved only $86.7 billion of the Bush administration’s $196.4 billion request for war spending this budget year, which began Oct. 1. Most of the money is required by the military, which says it is about $102.5 billion short and will run out this spring.

By early May, the House is expected to consider spending legislation addressing the military’s needs, with the Senate following suit.

DETROIT

Carmakers report drop in sales across the board

Automakers began 2008 expecting the worst year for U.S. auto sales in a decade. So far, they’re getting what they anticipated.

Sales dropped by double digits in March, even for usual stalwarts like Toyota. And with fragile consumer confidence, falling home values, tightening credit and high energy prices, it may be some time before auto sales recover.

General Motors and Chrysler both reported a 19 percent drop in U.S. sales on Tuesday. Ford’s sales fell 14 percent and Toyota was down 10 percent compared with last March. Nissan fell 4 percent and Honda reported a 3 percent drop.

GM remained upbeat, saying demand is building up and the federal economic stimulus package could help boost sales in the second half of the year.

HAVANA, Cuba

Castro rolls out reforms in Cuba

Shoppers snapped up DVD players, motorbikes and pressure cookers yesterday as a slew of consumer products went on sale to all Cuban citizens for the first time. Possibly more significantly, Cuba announced it will lend unproductive state land to private farmers to boost agricultural production.

Combined with other reforms announced in recent days, the measures suggested that substantial changes are being driven by new President Raul Castro, who vowed when he took over from his brother Fidel to remove some of the more irksome limitations on the daily lives of Cubans.

“They should have done this a long time ago,” one man said as he left a store with a red and silver electric motorbike that cost $814.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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