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Pumping for Answers

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank sketches the Senate Judiciary's hearing on the increasing price of oil. Video by Akira Hakuta/washingtonpost.com

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By Dana Milbank
Thursday, May 22, 2008

As oil hit a new record of $134 a barrel yesterday, lawmakers summoned energy executives to Capitol Hill for the latest in a series of ritual immolations. But this one felt more like "The Price Is Right."

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ConocoPhillips executive John Lowe -- come on down!

"Last year, what was your compensation?" Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy asked.

"I don't know the exact amount," the oilman demurred.

"Is it over, say, $100,000 a year?" coaxed Leahy, playing Bob Barker.

"Yes, sir."

"Considerably over $100,000?"

"Yes, sir, it would be."

"Over $1 million a year?"

Higher, Bob, higher! Lowe's cash compensation was $5.7 million in 2007, according to Forbes magazine, and stock options worth $10.9 million bring the price tag to -- ding, ding ding -- $16.6 million.

For lawmakers frustrated about $4-a-gallon gas, this game was fun. Leahy turned to Peter Robertson, vice chairman of Chevron.

"It's certainly well over $1 million," the executive said.

CONTINUED     1           >

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