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Specter: Windfall tax for oil companies 'worth considering'

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A national survey says gas prices have risen nearly 25 cents per gallon over the past two weeks.

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(CNN) -- Amid rising gas and oil prices, a leading Republican said on Sunday that the U.S. government should consider imposing a windfall tax on oil company profits.

"I think it's something worth considering among a number of options," Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told CNN's "Late Edition."

He also criticized consolidation in the oil industry.

"I believe that we have allowed too many companies to get together to reduce competition," he said, citing the combinations that created ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.

Specter said that after the chief executives of top oil companies testified in Congress last month, he has co-sponsored legislation that would, in part, "make the OPEC countries, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and the other countries, subject to our antitrust laws."

"They get together, reduce the supply of oil, and that drives up prices," he said.

"In the short run, it's hard to deal with it for tomorrow," Specter said. "But I think windfall profits, eliminating the antitrust exemption, considering the excessive concentration of power are all items we ought to be addressing."

On Friday, oil posted record highs, cruising past $75 a barrel on continued fears of supply disruptions in Iran and Nigeria and reports of spot gas shortages on the U.S. East Coast.

Gas prices have shot up nearly 25 cents per gallon over the past two weeks, to a national average of $2.91 for self-serve regular, a survey said Sunday. (Full storyexternal link)

In January, ExxonMobil Corp., the nation's largest oil company, reported U.S.-record profits for the quarter ($10.7 billion) and the year ($36.1 billion).

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told CNN's "Late Edition" on Sunday, "We need a windfall profits tax, because these profits have been absolutely obscene."

"If the president would call the oil companies into the Oval Office and tell them he's going to support a windfall profits tax ... I'll bet that the price of gasoline would come down within a matter of days," Levin said.

"But the president will not call the oil companies into his office, because he's been too closely allied with those oil companies. And if he does, it's going to be a window-dressing conversation."

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