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    BP Sees Downside in Bush Energy Plan

    Oil conglomerate also close to selling off three refineries.

    President George W. Bush's energy plan would not make crude oil any cheaper and would not spur BP to step up its U.S. oil and gas exploration efforts, said BP plc Chief Executive Sir John Browne.

    "Domestic measures make very little difference to the price of oil ... the price of crude oil really is set by the supply managers of the world, and that presently is OPEC," Browne told reporters at BP's Western U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles.

    London-based BP, which operates some 3,500 Food Shops, am-pm and Connect convenience stores, has extensive U.S. operations after acquiring Amoco in 1998 and ARCO last year. It is one of the biggest oil producers in Alaska and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, according to Bloomberg News.

    Browne said BP was interested in Bush's proposal to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling and was confident that it could operate there in an environmentally responsible manner. Browne, who has positioned BP as a "green" oil company, emphasized that the American people would have to decide first whether they wanted to allow drilling in the refuge which is home to caribou and polar bears. Corporations should not be part of the decision-making process, he said.

    The company also expects to close the sale of three U.S. oil refineries by year's end. "We're in talks with lots of different people. We have been for some time," Browne said.

    BP announced late last year that it planned to sell refineries in Salt Lake City, Utah, Mandan, N.D., and Yorktown, Va., with a combined capacity of 177,000 barrels a day. Browne attributed recent high retail prices for gasoline in the United States to a series of planned and unplanned oil refinery outages and said that prices now appeared to be retreating from their highs as refineries came back on line.

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