Oil Antitrust Action

February 10, 1978

Report Outline
Fight to Break Up ‘Big Oil’
Industry's Search for Stability
Shift to New Forms of Energy
Special Focus

Fight to Break Up ‘Big Oil’

Current Attempts in Congress and FTC

A movement to break up the major American oil companies has been gaining strength over the last several years and is expected to test its power in Congress again this year. Department of Energy allegations late last year and early this year that the oil companies overcharged consumers during and after the 1973–74 Arab oil embargo helped revive the animosity that many people feel toward the oil companies.

Bills proposing both vertical divestiture (breaking up the big companies into separate businesses confined to drilling, transporting, refining or marketing oil, but not all of these operations together) and horizontal divestiture (breaking up the companies into businesses that develop only oil, coal, uranium or geothermal energy, but not all of these fuels) have come close to passage in recent sessions of Congress.

The close votes obviously have scared the oil companies. Their response has been to mount a well-financed public relations and lobbying campaign directed by the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C. The anti-divestiture campaign is the API's No. 2 priority, second only to its effort to influence the shape of President Carter's national energy plan. The aim of the anti-divestiture campaign is to convince the public and Congress that breaking up “Big Oil,” as detractors and sometimes the petroleum industry itself calls the biggest companies, would weaken the American economy and make the energy situation even worse.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oil and Gasoline Prices
Jun. 22, 2012  U.S. Oil Dependence
Nov. 01, 2011  Future of the Gulf States
Jan. 04, 2008  Oil Jitters Updated
Jul. 2007  Energy Nationalism
Sep. 30, 2005  Domestic Energy Development
Jan. 24, 2003  Oil Diplomacy
Aug. 07, 1998  Oil Production in the 21st Century
Aug. 23, 1991  Oil Imports
Oct. 30, 1987  Persian Gulf Oil
Apr. 04, 1986  Oil Prices
Dec. 23, 1983  Quest for Energy Independence
Sep. 23, 1983  OPEC: 10 Years After the Arab Oil Boycott
May 29, 1981  Western Oil Boom
Aug. 25, 1978  Oil Imports
Feb. 10, 1978  Oil Antitrust Action
Dec. 17, 1976  Alaskan Development
May 17, 1974  Arab Oil Money
Mar. 15, 1974  Oil Taxation
Jul. 18, 1973  Offshore Oil Search
Mar. 28, 1973  Persian Gulf Oil
Nov. 01, 1972  Gasoline Prices
Oct. 14, 1970  Fuel Shortages
Nov. 12, 1969  Alaskan Oil Boom
Dec. 11, 1968  Oil Shale Development
Oct. 26, 1960  World Oil Glut
Sep. 10, 1958  Middle East Oil
Oct. 30, 1951  Oil Nationalization
Aug. 11, 1950  Oil Imports
Apr. 23, 1947  Oil of the Middle East
Jan. 22, 1946  Offshore Oil
Mar. 09, 1944  Oil Supply
Dec. 24, 1935  Oil in World Politics
May 07, 1931  Control of Production in the Oil Industry
Mar. 27, 1929  The Oil Leasing Policy of the New Administration
Jun. 08, 1927  Oil Conservation and Stabilization
Feb. 08, 1926  The Mexican Land and Petroleum Laws
Apr. 18, 1925  The Price of Gasoline
Feb. 11, 1924  Background of the Oil Lease Cases
Sep. 01, 1923  Gasoline
Antitrust and Monopolies
Antitrust and Monopolies
Oil and Natural Gas