John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, was asked that question by a reporter on a conference call Monday: "Do you think having these types of hearings is helpful to the industry or ostensibly they are just there to be beaten up by members of Congress?"
Felmy responded, "I think it's helpful for the industry, for us to tell our story. We're open and engaged in this."
It wasn't always that way. When the oil executives first appeared before Congress in 2005, committee Republicans and Democrats fought over whether the executives would have to be sworn in. (The oil companies also testified before Congress back in the 1970s.)
Republicans feared that the photo of the CEOs and company presidents with their arms raised would look bad. When tobacco executives, also under fire, testified, they first had to raise their hands and swear to tell the truth.
That photograph appeared on many newspaper front pages and became a lasting image in the tobacco debate. Ultimately, the oil executives were sworn in and that image did appear across the country.
With reports from Seiko Hayashi and Matt Jaffe.