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The WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE: Oil News Roundup: June 1, 2006

The price of crude oil continued to gyrate Wednesday, skidding 74 cents to $71.29 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as worries about geopolitical tensions and potential oil-supply disruptions eased a bit after the U.S. offered conditions for talks with Iran. Here is today’s news roundup on oil and energy.

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UNREST AT EXXON MOBIL: Exxon Mobil, the world’s biggest oil company, became the latest company to taste shareholder outrage over executive pay. At the company’s annual meeting in Dallas — where protesters outside braved the heat in giant oil-drum costumes, the Dallas Morning News reports — shareholders withheld votes from board members in unusual numbers to register their disgust with the whopping pay package given former CEO Lee Raymond. For the first time in company history, investors also rejected a proposal recommended by the company. They also voted to require a majority vote to elect a new board member, rather than the plurality currently required. New CEO Rex Tillerson said he would take that nonbinding vote “under advisement” and said he had no regrets about his predecessor’s pay.

SUDAN, ANGOLA PITCH OPEC: Two African nations, Sudan and Angola, have asked to join the OPEC oil cartel, Bloomberg reports. Last week, Nigeria, currently holding OPEC’s rotating presidency, reportedly invited Sudan to join it. Sudan’s membership bid could be controversial, given accusations its government has allowed genocide and other atrocities in its Darfur region. An OPEC meeting beginning tomorrow is not likely to result in a cut in oil production — though some cartel members, including Venezuela, would like to see one.

•Wal-Mart Considers Ethanol: Wal-Mart Stores said it is exploring selling ethanol-based biofuel at its 380-plus company-owned gas stations, a move that could give a substantial boost to the alternative-fuels market.

•GE, Credit Suisse Team Up: General Electric and Credit Suisse Group announced plans for a $1 billion joint venture to invest in energy and transportation projects around the world, including power generation and gas storage and pipelines.

•Iran’s Refinery Shortage: Oil-rich Iran has a severe shortage of refineries — one reason it may be desperate to avoid economic sanctions by the West, the Associated Press reports.

•Parish Stays Out of Suit: Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish Council has decided not to join a federal class-action suit against Murphy Oil USA arising from a leak at Murphy’s Meraux refinery, which dumped more than 25,000 barrels of crude oil in the surrounding area after Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.

•Caspian Oil on Tap: The first oil from a new, $4 billion pipeline connecting the Caspian Sea oil-producing region directly with the West — importantly, bypassing Russia and Iran — could be delivered as soon as Friday, the Associated Press reports.

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