George W. Bush allowed an increase in oil-refinery
mergers to go unchecked since he took office
and may have contributed to the highest gasoline
prices in 20 years as the November election
approaches, Bloomberg research has found.
Bush administration approved 33 takeovers
totaling $19.5 billion, on top of 21 deals
worth $7.3 billion that occurred under President
Bill Clinton, Bloomberg data show. Reduced
supplies already were pushing up gas prices
during Clinton's term, according to a Federal
Trade Commission study conducted after pump
prices rose to more than $2 a gallon in Milwaukee
and Chicago in 2000.
in a much worse position than we were when
the federal government broke up the Rockefeller
oil companies of the early 1900s," Jon Meade
Huntsman, a Republican and founder of the
chemicals maker Huntsman Co. said in an interview.
"The average guy on the street is getting
killed because this administration does not
are paying 30 percent more for regular gasoline
than a year ago, an average of $2.017 a gallon.
AAA Michigan reported Monday that regular
unleaded gas is averaging $2.048 a gallon
statewide and $2.027 in the Detroit area.
Oil futures have averaged $28.62 a barrel
since Bush took office, 42 percent higher
than the average during Clinton's two terms.
Oil reached a record $41.38 Friday.
57, who owned a Texas oil company, Arbusto
Energy, before getting into politics, and
Vice President Dick Cheney, 63, former chairman
of Halliburton Co., the world's biggest oilfield
services company, chose to focus on broadening
access to federal land for oil exploration
and developing renewable energy sources such
as corn-based ethanol to minimize price volatility.
on Monday, Treasury Secretary John Snow rejected
calls to tap the reserve. "Our policy is it's
to be used for genuine emergencies, not simply
to respond to high energy prices," Snow told
reporters in New York. Snow called the high
oil prices "unwelcome" and urged the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries to boost
Bush, the FTC hasn't tried to block any proposed
refinery takeovers. During Clinton's eight
years in office, the government sued once
to block an oil-industry merger. In February
2000, the FTC sought to stop BP Plc's $33.1-billion
purchase of Atlantic Richfield Co. after it
concluded the combination could lead to higher
prices of oil pumped from Alaska. BP completed
the purchase in April 2000 after it agreed
to sell oil fields in Alaska and terminals
and pipelines in Oklahoma.
the first quarter, the rise in gasoline prices
helped refiners generate the highest margins
from refining crude oil into gasoline and
other fuels since at least 1990. ConocoPhillips,
the largest U.S. oil refiner, last month posted
its biggest quarterly profit since the 2002
acquisition that formed the company. ChevronTexaco
Corp., the second-biggest U.S. oil producer,
said earnings rose 33 percent to the highest
level since a 2001 merger formed the company.
Refining profit doubled.
I were making a list of factors, you might
put consolidation on the list as a reason
prices have gone up," Clinton's FTC chairman,
Robert Pitofsky, said in an interview Monday.
1993 to 2003, the market share of the five-biggest
U.S. refiners grew from 35 percent to 52 percent,
according to the watchdog group Public Citizen.
The Consumer Federation of America says 77
percent of the market on the East Coast and
67 percent on the West Coast were controlled
by the top four refiners as of 2000.
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