Rumor alert: Exxon is poised to take over BP

According to people who keep track of such things, there’s “chatter” that ExxonMobil Corp., is poised to make a bid to take over BP. There’s also chatter that the chatter is bunk, but it was enough to make BP’s stock take a jump, if only temporarily.

Rumors that one company or another was going to take over BP have abound since the Deepwater disaster. In Alaska, there’s been chatter for longer. There may be nothing to all of this, but stack enough rumors atop each other, and they begin to mean something.

And in Alaska, where three majors — BP, Exxon, and ConocoPhillips – have the lease rights to nearly all the producing oil fields in the state, we should watch such rumors closely.

The last big oil takeover in Alaska was in 2000, when BP bought Arco, the company that discovered the Prudhoe Bay gusher. Tony Knowles was the governor then, and it was a major battle. After some heated lobbying, the Federal Trade Commission got involved over market consolidation and potential anti-trust issues.

FTC regulators required BP to sell its Arco Alaska assets. ConocoPhillips bought them, leaving BP with about a 30 percent stake on the North Slope. Exxon has about the same stake.

The deal was better for Alaska after the FTC’s involvement. If Alaska lost one of its majors and the competition that it spawned, the state would lose in both tangible and intangible ways. Back then, Alaska had a governor that was willing to fight, at least a little, for the state’s interest.

If talks of a merger prove to be valid, Alaska’s leadership will need to step up to insure that the state’s interests are protected.

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