Mobil Oil Corp. thinks it's winning the war to change attitudes toward the oil industry and yesterday released a Mobil-sponsored survey of 175 Washington "opinion leaders" which shows half of them now reporting "favorable" attitudes towards oil companies.
The $15,000 survey was conducted by the Rowen Group, Inc., a San Francisco-based survey research and political counseling firm. Twenty-four senators, 59 representatives, 30 heads or deputy heads of federal agencies were interviewed as well as journalists and members of what Mobil called public - and private interest groups.
A similar Mobil-sponsored study in 1973 found that only 18 per cent of 155 opinion leaders then interviewed had favorable attitudes towards the oil industry and 61 per cent were unfavorable compared with the 49 per cent favorable and 18 per cent unfavorable now.
But industry critic James F. Flug, director of Energy Action, a public interest group, dismissed the report as an "Alice-in-Wonderland analysis." He said those interviewed reflect "neither the opinions of the American people nor the direction in which the Congress and the administration are going."
Michael Rowen, a member of the firm that conducted the study, said at a press conference yesterday that the opinion leaders interviewed no longer believe oils is too big or must pay more taxes.
Of those surveyed, 50.9 per cent said they opposed horizontal divestiture - forbidding oil companies to control the producing, refining, to distributing and marketing activities of the industry - or vertical divestiture - forbidding them to control alternate energy sources such as coal and uranium. These proposals have been before Congress for several years.
Rowen accounted for the change by noting the large increase in news coverage of energy issues, energy-related advertisements by the oil companies and the appointment of energy advisers in most congressional offices.
Rowen said the congressmen interviewed for the study were selected on the basis of their committee assignments, while the journalists and members of so-called public and private-interest groups were chosen "at random."
Of the 24 senators (or aides to these senators) interviewed, at least 15 are well known for their pro-industry views, including Sens. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas), Bennett Johnston Jr. (D-La.) and Dewey Bartlett (R-Okla.)
Groups such as Energy Action, the Sierra Club. Common Cause and Ralph Nader's Public Interest Research Group, were the only respondents consistently opposing pro-industry views. Fifty per cent support divestiture, and 47.9 per cent said the oil companies are too big, compared to 9.7 per cent overall.