By Bob Weaver

None dare call it stealing from American citizens, with some able to call it "free lunch," but the major global oil companies have the best of all worlds.

It's "free lunch" US government subsidies at the taxpayers expense, while reaping the virtues of the "free" marketplace.

Top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies were hard-pressed this month to explain the soaring gasoline and oil prices amid record industry profits.

Members of a Congressional hearing on the matter asked why they weren't investing more to develop renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The executives deflected blame, arguing that their profits 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," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., relating what he had heard in his district, said that congressmen often don't rate very high in opinion polls.

"Your approval rating is lower than ours and that means your down low," Cleaver said.

Executives from Shell Oil Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., and ConocoPhillips said they are using the record breaking profits to invest in oil production.

Congressmen said Exxon Mobil is resisting using their most recent $40 billion annual profit in moving toward using renewable energy.

Despite record breaking profits, Congressmen acknowledged that the US government is giving the energy corporations huge tax breaks and taxpayer bucks for their research and development efforts.

"These companies are defending their receiving billions of federal subsidies (breaks) ... while reaping over a hundred billion dollars in profits in just the last year alone," complained Markey.

In November, 2005, the same top executives of the same companies told a Senate hearing that, "Our industry is extremely cyclical and what goes up almost always comes down."

That statement has been far off target.

The US government, certainly led by the current administration, has declined to consider a national energy policy.

It's full steam ahead for consumerism and corporate profits.

Recently oil prices have peaked over $110 a barrel, and consumers are likely facing $4 a gallon for gasoline.

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