ABC Bemoans 'Obscene' Profits of Oil Company 'Behemoths'

ABC's Jon Karl on Monday railed against the "obscene" profits of the oil companies and demanded to know what House Speaker John Boehner plans to do about it.  World News anchor Diane Sawyer alerted viewers that "the five behemoths of the oil industry" are announcing record profits this week.

Using a highly judgmental word, Karl complained to Boehner, "Is there something obscene about gas company, oil and gas company profits being that high when Americans are struggling just to fill up the tank?"

Karl also derided a tax cut for the oil industry as a subsidy: "[Boehner's] willing to consider doing away with federal subsidies for big oil companies, including the so-called oil depletion allowance, a big tax break just for the act of drilling."

After the House Speaker allowed that he may be willing to consider such a move for very large oil companies, Karl persisted, "So, would you be in favor of seeing some of these subsidies that going to big oil at times record profits [eliminated?]"

A transcript of the April 25 segment, which aired at 6:35pm EDT, follows: 

DIANE SAWYER: And coming up next, gas prices. New numbers out late today showing the price of gas soared another four cents this week. $3.88 a gallon, an all-time high for April. And this week, the five behemoths of the oil industry will announce first quarter profits expected to be $35 billion. 45 percent higher than a year ago. And that is a whopping $390 million profit every single day. House Speaker John Boehner even weighed in from his home turf in Ohio. And our Jon Karl got an exclusive interview.

JON KARL: Skyrocketing gas prices and those huge oil profits have even caught the attention of Speaker of the House John Boehner are, a long-time supporter of the oil industry. Is there something obscene about gas company, oil and gas company profits being that high when Americans are struggling just to fill up the tank?

JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, everybody- everybody wants to go after the oil companies and, frankly, they've got some part of this to blame. All right? But the fact is there's a limited supply of oil around the world. There's unrest in the Middle East driving up the price. They happen to hold the assets.

KARL: We met the Speaker in his rural Ohio district where he was meeting with local businesses. [Greeting Boehner.] Mr. Speaker. In an exclusive interview, he said something no Republican Speaker of the House has ever said. He's willing to consider doing away with federal subsidies for big oil companies, including the so-called oil depletion allowance, a big tax break just for the act of drilling. It cost taxpayers more than $1 billion a year. I'm sure you saw the former CEO of Shell Oil came out and said the companies, they don't need these subsidies.

BOEHNER: I don't think the big oil companies need to have the oil depletion allowances but for small independent oil and gas producers, if they didn't have this, there would be even less exploration in America than there is today.

KARL: So, would you be in favor of seeing some of these subsidies that going to big oil at times record profits-

BOEHNER: It's certainly something that we ought to be looking at.

KARL: Doing away with these subsidies? 

BOEHNER: We're at a time when the federal government is short on revenues. We need to control spending but we need to have revenues to keep the government moving. They ought to be paying their fair share.

KARL: Boehner also said the President shares some blame for high gas prices and said if they go any higher they'll cost him his re-election.

BOEHNER: The economy doesn't get better, I don't think he'll win. If people don't feel better about government-run health care, I don't think he'll win. If gas prices are at $5 or $6, he certainly isn't going to win.

KARL: For the Speaker's own constituents, skyrocketing gas prices have emerges as, perhaps, the top concern. The owner of this small business in Greenville, Ohio told us that mounting fuel costs are already starting to take a bite out of profits for them and for their customers. Diane?

SAWYER: And that profit number for the oil companies. $390 billion every single day sure got out attention.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org