Oil company officials reacted negatively to one part of President Carter's energy program that apparently took them by surprise - a call for substantially increased financial reporting by energy companies on exactly where their profits come from.
"I think the industry is probably going to resist it," one official of a major integrated petroleum company predicted.
The main reason, a number of officials claimed, is the difficulty in making meaningful and comparable reports on profits division by division - particularly in drawing the line between refining and marketing profits.
Reservation were also expressed about turning over confidential information to the government that would fall into the hands of competitors. And there was fear that the kind of reporting proposed is a first step toward utility-type regulation of the oil industry.
At the same time, executives of the "Big Oil companies said they had no difficulty with another of President Carter's proposals that would have the U.S. government gather statistics on domestic oil and gas reserves, rather than to rely on figures produced bythe industry.
"If the government wants to spend that kind of money to come up with a number that's no more precise than what oil companies give them, and taxpayers want to pay for it, I could care less," commented Howard W. Bell, vice president for finance of Standard Oil of Calfornia, the country's fourth largest oil company. Toward the end of his speech Wednesday night, the President told a joint session of Congress that the country needs "more accurate information about our supplies of energy and about the companies that produce it.
"If we are asking sacrifices of ourselves, we need facts we can count on," he said. "we need an independent information system that will give us reliable date about energy reserves and production, emergency capabilities and financial data from the energy producers."
He also recommended that "individual accounting be required from energy companies for production, refining, distribution and marketing, separately for domestic and foreign operations. Strict enforcement of the antitrust laws based on this data may prevent the need for divestiture."
A seperate fact sheet said "companies would have a conform, ultimately, to a uniform system of accounts, and to report capital expenditure and operating results by geopgraphic region and type of fuel." In addition, there would be a profit breakdown by "functional areas," both foreign and domestic.
According to one oil company excutive, who declined to be identified, there is "a problem finding appropriate market values at cach stage of the process. If there isn't a large representative market at any particular stage, you begin to get distortions built in."