Today, five oil company executives have the chance to explain their dizzying profits to senators whose constituents have paid as much as...

Today, five oil company executives have the chance to explain their dizzying profits to senators whose constituents have paid as much as $3 a gallon for gasoline in recent weeks. This had better be good.


Though prices have been softening in Seattle and elsewhere, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., called joint hearings before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee after the energy industry’s raucous third quarter. Profits that jumped as much as 75 percent over last year happened to coincided perfectly with soaring gas prices.


Democrats and Republicans, senators and representatives, governors and the National Association of Attorneys General are demanding better explanations. In September, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was among the first by suggesting Congress give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to probe oil-company pricing.


But quickly, others joined, including Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore. Now, Frist says he is willing to consider anti-gas-gouging laws. Some senators are even talking about a windfall-profits tax.


We’re skeptical about going that far. The oil industry points to the hurricane damage done to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the investment needed to recover. But the oil companies need to do a better job of explaining their prices and their profits.


And Cantwell has asked the committee chairs to have the oil execs testify under oath — just as the Enron execs. The nation is all ears.