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
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.