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Oil Execs Back Subsidies, Deny Being Out of Touch

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Americans don't expect the oil industry to help reduce the budget deficit, the CEO of Chevron told Congress Thursday as lawmakers consider cutting billions in government subsidies to big oil companies.

"I don't think American people want shared sacrifice," John Watson, CEO of Chevron, said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing. "I think they want shared prosperity."

"I'm not out of touch at all," said Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil. "We do understand the big picture. We do understand the enormous challenges confronting the American people with respect to this enormous deficit that has to be dealt with."

But Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the oil companies' unwillingness to turn over their tax subsidies showed they were "out of touch."

"I think you're out of touch, deeply profoundly out of touch and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing," Rockefeller said. "You never lose. You've never lost. You always prevail."

Senate Democrats pounded executives from the country's five largest and most profitable oil companies – BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell – about accepting taxpayer subsidies while gas prices continue to rise. It is all part of an effort by Democrats to push a new bill that would scrap tax breaks for the five companies, the biggest and most profitable ones in the country. Democrats want to cut about $2 billion per year in tax subsidies for the companies and use the savings to pay down the nation's soaring federal deficit.

But the oil executives clung to the belief that cuts to their tax subsidies would be unfair and would stifle job creation and economic growth.

The panel's top Republican Orrin Hatch rose to the defense of the oil executives, calling the hearing a "dog and pony" show.

"If you're going to do this you should treat them fairly along with all the other companies that receive some type of tax expenditures," Hatch said. "I don't want them mistreated just because they're an industry that people hate and they're supposed to be 'big.'"

The oil executives said the bill would not help lower gas prices, a point House Speaker John Boehner echoed in his press conference Thursday.

"We all know that going after oil companies is easy politics, but we also know that if this bill were to pass it wouldn't lower gas prices one penny," Boehner said.

The Senate is set to vote on the measure sometime in the next week, but its chances of passing appear slim to none. The measure will need 60 votes to pass, a tall order in a chamber where there are only 53 Democrats and even some of them don't support the measure.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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