Energy: She Also Wants Alaskan Crude Reserved For Domestic Use Only
Due to high prices at the gas pump, Sen. Barbara Boxer has called on the Federal Trade Commission to declare a moratorium on all major oil industry mergers.
The moratorium would be part of a three-pronged strategy to give California drivers a break at the pump. Boxer also was moved to action out of concern for local industries, especially truckers who have been squeezed by higher fuel costs.
Boxer blames mergers as the source of the problem.
“Clearly, these mergers are responsible for these prices, because mergers equal less competition, and less competition equals higher prices,” Boxer said.
In the past three years alone, Shell merged with Texaco, BP merged with Amoco, and Exxon merged with Mobil. Now, BP-Amoco is looking to merge with Arco, which will increase the company’s market power and make it easier to raise prices, she said.
Boxer also called on the FTC for the release of secret oil company documents which she said would prove her case. The FTC has a lawsuit pending against BP-Amoco, accusing the oil giant of allegedly engaging in price manipulation damaging to California consumers, she said.
These documents, not yet available to the public, are the smoking gun, she said.
If the FTC chooses not to declare a moratorium on oil company mergers, then she is asking two major conditions be attached to the BP-Amoco merger with Arco.
One condition is the lawsuit not be dropped, while the second is any oil from Alaskan fields owned by BP, Amoco or Arco be sold only in the United States, Boxer said.
Boxer also seeks legislation she introduced demanding all oil in Alaska be sold only in the United States. Under her proposed legislation, the 68,000 barrels of Alaskan oil that go to Asia would be required to be sold here.
“This prohibition had been put in place in the ’70s and was lifted in 1995. Those of us who opposed lifting that prohibition did so because we predicted a reduction of supply to Americans would higher prices. Our fears have been realized,” Boxer said.
The final prong of her strategy is to work with Sen. Dianne Feinstein in pushing for legislation mandating greater fuel economy for trucks and sport utility vehicles to bring them into parity with passenger cars.
It would reduce America’s dependence on oil by about 1 million barrels a day, while consumers would save about $2,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicle, she said.
Boxer noted the Senate recently voted down such a measure six months ago by a 55-40 vote. Now, however, as senators are faced with high gas prices, Congress may be ready to reconsider, she said.
One move Boxer refused to consider is reducing or removing the federal excise tax on gasoline, which some congressmen had floated as a way to lower the overall price.
In two years, California would lose $1.7 billion in highway funds. Boxer called that a “total disaster” and noted Republicans are backing away from this earlier proposal.
Boxer also refused to grant a temporary variance to California, which if enacted would allow into the state gasoline that does not meet California’s strict clean-air standards.
“I don’t believe in trading lower prices for asthma and cancer, and all the horrible things that come with dirty air,” she said.