BP Plc Chief Executive Sir John Browne described
President George W. Bush's energy plan as "comprehensive" but said it would not make crude oil any cheaper and would not spur BP to step up its U.S. oil and gas exploration efforts which are already running at full steam.
"Domestic measures make very little difference to the price of oil ... the price of crude oil really is set by the supply managers of the world, and that presently is OPEC," Browne said.
London-based BP is the world's third biggest investor-owned oil company and has extensive U.S. operations after acquiring Amoco in 1998 and ARCO last year. It is one of the biggest oil producers in Alaska and the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Browne said BP was interested in Bush's proposal to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling and was confident that it could operate there in an environmentally responsible manner.
"We have been in Alaska since 1959, both exploring and developing and I think we have a track record of doing it pretty well," he said.
However Browne, who has positioned BP as a "green" oil company, emphasized that the American people would have to decide first whether they wanted to allow drilling in the refuge which is home to caribou and polar bears. Corporations should not be part of the decision-making process, he said.
BP already plans to raise its oil production in Alaska, where output has been in decline for several years, even without gaining access to new lands.
"We are trying to expand the production from Alaska generally, both from existing fields such as Prudhoe Bay and the Kuparuk field ... but we're also developing new fields up there," Browne said.
The company expects to raise its Alaskan oil production from 300,000 barrels per day to 350,000 within a year or two.
BP is also pressing ahead with the development of several deepwater oil discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico, including the giant Mad Dog discovery which contains over one billion barrels. Browne said BP's oil production in the Gulf of Mexico would outstrip its production in Alaska within
a few years.
The Bush energy plan will not encourage BP to raise its spending on oil and gas exploration in the United States
, Browne said, because the company has already ramped up U.S. drilling as part of an increase in global exploration and production spending to $8 billion in 2001 from $6 billion in 2000.
"We're at maximum rate here ... we've got plenty of opportunities," he said.
Browne said the company was on track to deliver oil and gas production growth within its targeted range of 5 to 7 percent. "We expect to achieve somewhere in that range this year and to continue the progress thereafter," he said. - (Reuters)