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Energy executives defend high prices, mergers at Judiciary Committee hearing

[JURIST] Top executives from Exxon, Chevron, Shell and other major oil companies told members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] in a hearing [notice] Tuesday that high oil prices could be reduced by opening onshore and offshore locations in the US now shielded from drilling, and that energy mergers actually helped consumers by contributing to the ability of companies to explore. Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter [official website] had called the hearing to consider whether mergers among the largest American oil and natural gas companies cause consumer had caused energy prices to rise, seeing it as opportunity to promote the proposed No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act [text; JOL backgrounder], which would amend the Sherman antitrust act to make oil producing and exporting cartels illegal in the states. The proposed legislation also contains provisions to strengthen the government's ability to intervene in energy company mergers where those could reduce available energy supplies and raise prices. Watch a brief clip from the hearing [recorded video], with questions by ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy and responses by oil executives.

The Judiciary Committee held similar hearings [JURIST report] last month, during which Specter voiced concerns that many of the mergers approved by the Federal Trade Commission may have been detrimental to consumers. Reuters has more.

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