The Senate hearings on soaring corporate oil profits are now underway, and -- in what may be a first for the energy industry during this administration -- Reuters reports that they are on the defensive:

Big oil companies defended their combined quarterly profits of more than $30 billion at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, warning lawmakers that proposals for a windfall profit tax could discourage investments and lead to higher prices.

Yet a defense is only needed if there's an offense, and the very next paragraph of the report admits that the hearings may be more grandstanding than substance:

It was unclear whether the hearing would lead to any new energy legislation, or simply be a vehicle for Republicans and Democrats to assure voters of their concern about high prices.

The exclamations of concern ring particularly hallow coming from the leadership of the GOP, as this sentence gently points out:

Republicans, who pushed through a bill this year packed with $14.5 billion in energy industry incentives, asked the executives to explain why prices were so high.

Those Congressional leaders sure drive a hard bargain. The oil execs must be shaking in their snakeskin boots.