Analysis: Lifting crude export ban would create jobs, cut gas prices

Lifting the decades-old ban on crude oil exports would create roughly 394,000 jobs and save the U.S. $67 billion a year, IHS Inc. said Thursday.

In a new report, IHS estimates that doing away with export restrictions on crude oil could lead to lower gasoline prices and greater increases in domestic oil production.

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As the No. 1 consumer of oil, the change would significantly boost the U.S. economy, IHS claims.

Talk of lifting the ban picked up on Capitol Hill after the Energy Department's stat shop reported domestic crude oil production surpassed foreign imports for the first time in nearly 20 years last October.

The IHS report could add further fuel for lawmakers who support lifting the ban.

"Making U.S. oil available to global markets would unlock the current supply and refining gridlock in the United States," IHS states. "It would lead to a total of $746 billion in additional investment [from 2016 through 2030] and an average of 1.2 million barrels per day."

In addition, the report states that increased crude oil supply would lower gasoline prices by a average of 8 cents per gallon annually.

The collective savings for all U.S. motorists would total $265 billion over 14 years starting in 2016, compared to a scenario in which the ban remains in place.

“The 1970’s-era policy restricting crude oil exports — a vestige from a price controls system that ended in 1981 — is a remnant from another time,” said Daniel Yergin, IHS vice chairman. “It does not reflect the dramatic turnaround in domestic oil production, led by tight oil, which has reversed the United States’ oil position so significantly."

The White House has said it is weighing whether lifting the ban is viable for the country in the current landscape. The Energy Information Administration said it plans to study the impact of crude exports.

Lawmakers including Sen. Lisa Murkwoski (R-Alaska), a staunch proponent of lifting crude oil trade restrictions, are hopeful President Obama will use his executive authority to end the ban.

"It’s time to reverse a policy that has far outlived its usefulness — something that would benefit the entire country," Murkowski said in a statement Thursday. “The current rules of engagement on energy trade were written at a time of energy scarcity, not abundance, and they are causing distortions in the market that is undervaluing America’s energy resources."

Still, a number of lawmakers oppose ending the ban, citing higher costs for the consumer and economic uncertainty.