Oil companies defend megamergers

first_imgWASHINGTON – The nation’s top oil executives absorbed another verbal lashing Tuesday, facing attacks from angry senators channeling public ire over high oil prices at home. At a Senate panel on industry consolidation, the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp. and other oil giants defended their megamergers of the last decade as the only way for them to succeed in an increasingly complex market amid powerful foreign producers. “We need companies that have the scale to compete,” said Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. Executives from other oil companies also maintained that industry consolidation has not contributed to higher prices. But the assurances did little to calm lawmakers who were considering legislation to raise the bar for merger approvals. “It’s simply naive to think that massive consolidation of the industry has no impact” on prices, said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer railed against “obscene” prices and “egregious” company profits, calling on lawmakers to explore company divestitures on the refining and retailing side of the industry. The oil chiefs were forced to raise their hands to be sworn in, creating an unflattering image – one that executives have sought to avoid – as they withstood accusations of contributing to soaring gas prices. It was the second time in four months that oil executives have been summoned to Capitol Hill to hear from senators. A panel in November to examine the record prices after two hurricanes drew considerable attention but resulted in no legislative action that would affect prices. On Tuesday, the five minutes allotted to each senator for questioning the executives was enough for little more than sharp sound bites – and even shorter answers from the panelists. Senator after senator lobbed accusations about the U.S. companies, overseas producers or the structure of the market. “Nobody is satisfied with the way this market is behaving,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. The oil companies emerged from the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with little prospect of immediate action against them. But the senators showed bipartisan interest in draft legislation by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that would scrutinize mergers more closely and prevent companies from restricting supplies to hold up prices. It would also allow the government to sue the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries for holding back supply to raise prices. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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