WASHINGTON, D.C. --- Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said yesterday that Congress would examine more closely the relationship between rising fuel prices and the oil industry's record profits, according to Reuters. Specter spoke at a hearing addressing the issue of oil industry consolidation and its impact on consumer prices and competition. Exxon Mobil, the country's biggest energy company, on Monday reported a 27-percent increase in profits for the fourth quarter. The company's 2005 profits reached $36.13 billion. Concerns over Iran's nuclear program, as well as tensions in Nigeria and Venezuela, have helped keep global oil prices high in recent months. In a statement to the committee, the American Petroleum Institute, which represents large oil companies, argued that the Federal Trade Commission has already thoroughly analyzed all oil company mergers in the past 25 years. The FTC is currently investigating whether the oil industry manipulated gasoline pricing and refining production levels in the past year. A report to Congress is expected in May.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials