Sen. Murkowski ready to zero in on oil exports

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wants to lead the debate on whether the U.S. should break with its decades-old ban on crude oil exports.

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And she wants to start it soon — by mid-January, to be exact.

Murkowski plans to release a white paper on the pros and cons of opening the country's export policy on crude, one of her top aides told The Hill.

"Sen. Murkowski believes the debate on energy exports is coming sooner rather than later," said Robert Dillon, an aide to the senator, who sits on the chamber's Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"The debate has been centered on natural gas, and she wants to switch it to oil."

"It is another opportunity for our country economically, and certainly her position will become clear" when the report is released," Dillon added.

On Thursday, Exxon Mobil announced in its 2014 energy outlook that crude oil supplies are abundant and that by 2040, 65 percent of the world's recoverable crude will have yet to be produced.

The increasing amount of oil and gas in the U.S. could pose a challenge for Exxon as booming production pushes domestic prices lower, which is why the company is calling for an end to the U.S. ban on most crude exports.

A top oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, also wants the ban to end. It is preparing to challenge the restrictions by arguing that the limits could violate international trade rules, Bloomberg reported in early November.

Dillon made clear Murkowski is not following any of the companies pushing movement on the export ban.

She has been working on this for some time, he said, and hopes to get the conversation going to possibly push through meaningful legislation if warranted.

Murkowski might find open ears within the administration.

Platts reports at a forum in New York on Thursday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the country's energy landscape is very different from when the ban was established in the 1970s, amid the Arab oil embargoes.

"Those restrictions on exports were borne, as was the Department of Energy and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, on oil disruptions," Moniz said, according to Platts.

"There are lots of issues in the energy space that deserve some new analysis and examination in the context of what is now an energy world that is no longer like the 1970s."

Currently, the U.S. bans most exports of crude, minus a small amount to Canada.