California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., 13 senators and a packed congressional hearing room yesterday heard what many people have suspected - that it would take a "miracle" - and perhaps more-for Standard Oil Co. of Ohio to build the proposed $1 billion Califronia-to-Texas oil pipeline.
At a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee on why Sohio had abruptly canceled the project after spending five years and $50 million gathering 700 pipeline permits, Sohio Chairman Alton Whitehouse said, "In all candor, I don't think it could happen."
The political focus of yesterday's hearing, however, was not on Sohio and its plans for a pipeline to carry Alaskan oil to inland markets, but on Brown. Over the last few weeks, he has denied charges that California's regulatory system and what the governor's critics allege is an antibusiness bias in the Brown administration killed the 1,000-mile-long pipeline project.
Referring to British Petroleum, which owns 52 percent of Sohio, Brown said: "I'm not going to be pushed around by a foreign company that wants a few extra pennies of profit a barret."
Brown, whose 1980 presidential campaign is not vet official added that Sohio and California had worked out an "ingenious" plan to resolve airpollution problems that would be casused by the project's Long Beach terminal. Now Sohio wants out of that agreement, Brown told the committee, turning occasionally toward the seven television cameras against a wall in the hearing room.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), and advocate of measures to alleviate the West Coast oil glut and increase Alaskan oil production, answered Brown, saying, "It appears that Alaskan oil is being held blackmail . . . It looks like presidential politics to me."
Later, Energy Secretary James R. Schlesinger Jr. said the Carter administration favous completing the Sohio pipeline as well as the proposed Northern Tier pipeline to carry oil from Washington state to the Midwest.
Last week, after a meeting with Sohio officials, Sen. Alan Cranston, (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress, Schlesinger announced that the administration was seeking a three-pronged effort to override regulatroy problems and potential lawsuits holding up the pipeline.
Speaker Leo Mccarthy and Assemblyman Vic Calvo, head of the California Assembly Energy Committee, have since told Sohio that the legislature is not likely to go along with a proposal to insulate the oil company from environmental lawsuits.
Yesterday, Whitehouse reiterated that Sohio, which controls half the production from Alaska's Prudhoe Bay field, would not go forward on the project if it were not profitable. "Contrary to indications from some, this is not a public works program," he said. In recent weeks major oil company executives have said Sohio abandoned the pipeline because its operations are now more profitable without it.
Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.) asked Whitehouse whether Sohio had canceled the project because it hoped to export oil to Japan. Whitehouse said Sohio would make up to $2 a barrel more with exports to Japn, but did not expect to win required congressional approval for such exports.
Schlesinger followed, saying the adminstration has "examined an option of exports, or swaps, above the 1.2 million-barrel (current Alaskan production level) to facilitate added exploration." Administration sources say Schlesinger has continued to urge President Carter to ask Congress to approve overseas oil exports.
According to an Energy Department study provided to The Washington Post, overseas exports would increase the revenues of Alaskan oil producers - Sohio, Exxon and others - by up to $3.9 billion and increase state revenues by up to $4 billion, both over the next 20 years, while giving the companies an incentive to increase production by 300,000 barrels a day or more.
Senior administration sources, however, say that Carter has not fully embraced Schlesinger's proposal.