Sen. Menendez to Obama: Don't export crude

Sen. Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThe Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo Poll: Menendez has 17-point lead over GOP challenger MORE (D-N.J.) has taken issue with recent comments by the Obama administration on easing the ban of crude oil exports.

In a letter to President Obama, Menendez said "crude oil produced in the U.S. should be used to lower prices here at home, not sent to the other side of the world."

Menendez blasted the comments by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last week, which hinted at revising the ban — a result of the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s.

"Allowing for expanded crude exports would serve only to enhance the profits of Big Oil, and could force U.S. consumers to pay even more at the pump," Menendez said in a statement. "I urge you to reject any attempts to send more U.S.-produced crude oil abroad."

A Department of Energy official said Moniz's comments were made in an effort to explain the difference between natural gas and oil exports. Moniz made clear the issue of crude exports is something the Department of Commerce handles, not Energy, the official added.

Menendez's letter is the latest in the debate surrounding crude oil exports, which is set to heat up next year as oil companies like Exxon Mobil are increasingly calling for an end to the ban.

And Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) plans to take a front seat in debate. She wants to lead the discussion on whether the U.S. should break with the decades-old ban and plans to release a white paper on the issue by mid-January.