Senate Judiciary Committee will take its turn grilling oil company executives

The Senate Judiciary Committee will question the same five executives on May 21 who testified April 1 before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

May 21: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing, "Exploring the Skyrocketing Price of Oil," at 10 a.m. in Room 226 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Scheduled witnesses are Robert A. Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc.; John D. Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co.; Peter J. Robertson, vice chairman of Chevron Corp.; John E. Lowe, executive vice president of ConocoPhillips Co., and J. Stephen Simon, executive vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp.

Why it matters: There's a strong argument that it doesn't. The witness same witnesses testified April 1 before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Simon took the hardest verbal shots from that committee's chairman, Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and probably will get more from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). That will only make his retirement from Exxon Mobil that much more enjoyable when it arrives on May 31.

There could be some signals of Senate Democrats' future legislative direction amid the record-profits-amid-record-prices rhetoric and posturing, however. Committee member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill with Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) on May 5 which would direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to ensure that any foreign exchange operating a trading terminal in the United States for the trading of a US energy commodity meet the same reporting requirements as US exchanges. Witnesses can expect questions about the role of speculators in oil prices and whether increasing margin requirements for crude oil futures would have a favorable effect.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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