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    Anti-Big-Business Group Urges Obama to Increase Oil Company Regulation

    Letter to President-elect spins results of new poll to support its cause.

    SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- A self-described anti-big-business group is calling on President-elect Barack Obama and Energy Department designee Steven Chu to step up regulation of the oil and refining industries as part of efforts to stabilize the economy and shift to greener energy. Citing a poll conducted in early December by a Caravan Opinion Research and Grove Insight, the California-based group wrote to the new administration claiming Americans favor more regulation of the oil and refining industries by a two-to-one margin.

    "Mr. Chu and the rest of the president-elect's energy team will face a lobbying backlash from Exxon and friends, who have run rampant on national energy policy during the Bush years," Judy Dugan, research director of the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement. "Consumer Watchdog's poll results will give the Obama team ammunition to resist this powerful lobby."

    The poll included responses from 840 registered voters. Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) respondents supported legislation to give the Energy Department the power to regulate oil producers and refineries, while only one in five (20 percent) opposed. The group downplayed the fact that the largest number of respondents (40 percent) were "undecided"about the matter.

    The group asked the new administration to give the Energy Secretary the authority to require refineries to produce enough fuel to keep available a 30-day supply, which was the average on-hand supply as recently as the early 1990s, according to Energy Information Administration data. Such authority need be used only if there is evidence of supply restriction for price reasons, and prices are rising. It also asked that the administration grant a similar authority to curb refiners' exports of refined fuels in times of rising demand or refinery outages.

    Consumer Watchdog also, in the letter, reiterated its support of stronger oversight of energy trading markets to quell the speculative spikes that pushed cured oil prices to more than $145 a barrel this year, and gasoline prices to well over $4 a gallon.

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