Murkowski gives refiners tough love on oil exports

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) says the conversation around crude oil exports should not be about whether it will squeeze refiners, but about what exports could "mean for the rest of the country."

"We have more light sweet crude coming out of places like the Bakken and Eagle Ford than we can process, and refiners look at that and say it 'puts us in an enviable position' but think about what that means for rest of country," Murkowski said in an interview with Platts Energy Week that aired Sunday.

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"You've have a slow down, a choke point because what is coming out of the ground doesn't have a place to move. So we have to look at this as not necessarily what is best for refiners bottom line, but what is best for the overall economy, what is best for friends and allies," Murkwoski added.

Refineries generally oppose opening up the floodgates to crude oil exports. Currently, the U.S. only allows the export of refined petroleum products. More recently, the Commerce Department decided to allow two companies export condensate, a light oil that goes through a minimal refining process.

But Murkowski wants the decades-old ban on crude exports to be lifted altogether.

"It's time we revisit this," Murkowski said. "We have this mindset of operating from energy scarcity but the energy world has changed so dramatically in the past decade and it's not because this stuff just migrated under our soil, it's the technology that is allowing us to access it in affordable and environmentally responsible way."

Murkowski has led talks of pushing crude exports in the Senate, and may be able to shape the conversation more if Democrats lose control of the Senate, putting Murkowski in place to take the chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

While a number of Republicans on the committee have expressed support for expanding oil exports, others in the House are not as quick to weigh in on the issue, and say movement on exports won't happen anytime soon.

The Commerce Department has said it is having "serious conversations" about more crude oil exports, but no policy decisions have been made.

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