Senate Democrats demanded that oil company executives who testified last week about skyrocketing energy prices reappear before lawmakers and testify under oath, after news reports raised questions about the truthfulness of their testimony.
Leading oil company executives long have denied taking part in a secretive energy task force run in 2001 by Vice President Dick Cheney, but White House records obtained by The Washington Post refuted that, according to the daily's editions on Wednesday.
The ad hoc group was tasked with helping develop a national energy policy, but was opposed by environmentalists because there allegedly were no ecologically friendly players on the panel.
The leader of Senate Democrats said the oil company executives who testified last week should be forced to return to Congress to set the record straight regarding their involvement with Cheney's group.
"When the big oil companies came to Congress to testify about their record profits, we expected that they would tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Today, we learned that this was a standard they were not prepared to meet," said Senator Harry Reid.
"This is unacceptable. I join my Democratic colleagues in demanding that these oil executives by brought back to the Congress, sworn in, and forced to testify again about their involvement with Vice President Cheneys secretive energy task force and all of the issues covered in the hearing," said Reid, who authored a letter to the Senate leadership requesting that the oil executives be summoned to new hearings.
"We respectfully request that you reconvene hearings as soon as possible to take these witnesses sworn testimony about their roles in the Cheney energy task force and the recent run-up in American fuel prices," Reid wrote in the letter.
Democrats also objected to a decision by the leaders of the Republican-led Senate to waive swearing in the witnesses. At any future hearing, Reid said, the executives should testify under oath.
"Recalling these witnesses to testify under oath will help us answer many of these lingering questions, and bolster the American peoples confidence in the integrity of the Senates investigation into this matter," he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg called at a press conference for an investigation.
"I want to be certain that this gets an appropriate review, so I've written to the attorney general asking him to investigate whether any of these oil company CEOs broke the law by making false statements to the Congress," Lautenberg said.
"Gas prices, everyone knows, are more than double what were at the end of 2001, and in September we all saw the average price of gas go above three dollars," he said.
"Whatever was discussed at that White House energy task force meeting, it seems to turn out very well for the big oil companies, but it's been disastrous, daily disastrous for the American public."
Lautenberg added: "We need to know what went on at those meetings, and find out whether this administration permitted the interests of big oil to stand ahead of the needs of the American families, small businesses."
Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse.