Senate committee threatens to subpoena oil executives

| 2/2/2006

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA, threatened to subpoena representatives of major oil companies to force them to appear before a Senate committee and explain their record profits.

Specter was speaking during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Feb. 1. The hearing was called to examine whether the oil industry has become too consolidated and whether it wields too much power over prices at the pumps.

In 2005, many U.S. oil companies reported record profits at a time when hurricanes sent prices soaring at the pump.

Dow Jones MarketWatch reported that, over the past 15 years, the oil industry has seen more than 2,600 mergers and acquisitions. Specter said during the hearing that the consolidation within the industry might have gone too far.

“I am somewhere between impressed and astounded by these profits,” he said. “And it raises big questions about whether something needs to be done in the merger and acquisitions field.”

Executives from several major oil companies were asked to testify at the hearing, but all declined, citing busy schedules and short notice.

Representatives from consumer groups and the Connecticut attorney general testified at the hearing, each calling for more oversight and investigation into the oil industry.

Meanwhile, President Bush dismissed criticism of the oil industry’s record profits Feb. 2, adding that the profits were simply the result of a healthy market.

“I think that basically the price is determined by the marketplace and that’s the way it should be,” he told The Associated Press.