Republican leaders urged the oil industry

Republican leaders of the House of Representatives, fearing a political backlash over huge oil industry profits, urged the oil industry on Tuesday to use its wealth to build new refineries and pipelines.

The largest oil companies are expected to announce huge profits soon covering operations from July through September, despite heavy damage to oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. During those months, petrol prices rose above $3 (Ђ2.50) per gallon, and crude oil hit $70 (Ђ58.25) a barrel. Both have declined in recent weeks.

Some industry analysts have predicted combined profits of more than $20 billion (Ђ16.6 billion) by the five largest oil companies during the quarter. London-based BP PLC reported on Tuesday a 34 percent increase in profits in those three months, to $6.53 billion (Ђ5.4 billion).

Congressional Democrats are faulting Republicans for failing to deal with what many consumers view as price gouging. So leaders of President George W. Bush's party took the offensive Tuesday, while also saying they saw little that Congress can do beyond jawboning oil company executives. That's an American idiom that denotes the use political persuasion rather than legislation or administrative action to produce a desired outcome.

Hastert dismissed demands by a number of minority Democrats for a tax on oil companies' windfall profits. Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, head of the House Republican Conference, said the high price of energy "has us reeling," and "oil companies have to do their share" to produce more, AP reports.

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