Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), has drawn up a new bill that would prevent the country's 16 largest oil companies from acquiring any other company assets greater than $100 million.
The Kennedy bill-which will be formally introduced this week-is intended to prevent oil companies that will benefit from President Carter's decision to decontrol the price of domestic oil from using their new wealth to buy up other companies, and aide said yesterday.
Kennedy said yesterday that Carter's energy program "has set in motion forces that will inevitably lead to the most massive private accumulation of cash in the history of capitalism." By the most conservative estimate, and assuming passage of a "windfall profits tax", Kennedy siad, the oil companies will accumulate at least $8 billion in new earnings by 1981 because of decontrol.
He predicted this money would be used by big oil firms to acquire other energy-related businesses and to develop "oilbased conglomerates".
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, immediately balsted Kennedy's proposal as unwarranted. An API statement said that if passed the bill would amount to "interference with oil companies' normal mechanisms for achieving stability and spreading risk"-in other words, their ability to acquire outside properties.
API said this could "actually reduce investment in petroleum and inhibit exploration and development involving long-term capital commitments and high risk."
The oil industry organization also said Kennedy bill was unnecessary as anti-trust legislation since there is no practical prospect that oil companies could create monoplies, even with acquisitions.
Thei new Kennedy bill follows an earlier measure introduced by the Massachusetts Democrat that would have put the obstacles in the way of major new acquisitions by all the nation's largest corporations.
Hearings on that measure provoked stron opposition from the business community, and the bill's prospects have appeared uncertian at best. An aide to Kennedy said yesterdya that the new bill aimed only at 16 oil companies had "a much better chance for enactment" than the earlier proposal.
The Kennedy aide noted that at least one spokesman for big business had already testified that only the oil companies are in a position to make substantial number of major acquisitions, so perhaps a legal remedy should be limited to them.Such testimony raises the possibility of a split within the businees community that might leave the oil giants to fight for themselves.
Additional hearings on Kennedy's conglomerate merger bill were held yesterday by the anti-trust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Kennedy now heads. Kennedy used that occasion to blast the oil companies, but he did not announce introduction of his new bill because it was not quite ready.