Economists to Obama: Lift oil export ban

As a House panel met to weigh the impacts of lifting a 40-year old ban on crude oil Thursday, economists called on President Obama to repeal it.

A number of lawmakers in the Senate, including Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Obama integrates climate change into national security planning GOP pressures Kerry on Russia's use of Iranian airbase Overnight Energy: Lawmakers kick off energy bill talks MORE and Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Iran president hints at future prisoner swaps, cash settlements with US Senators buck spending bill over Export-Import Bank MORE back repealing the ban, and Murkowski has said the president should do it, not Congress.

Economists from the American Council for Capital Formation renewed calls for Obama to lift the ban as production in the U.S. has grown to unprecedented levels, but are also open to congressional action.

Earlier this week, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced legislation to do just that. 

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ACCF economists Margo Thorning and William F. Shughart also said Thursday’s House hearing should be the beginning of talks to allow more oil exports.

“We hope today’s hearing was a precursor to the kind of discussion that will be taking place in both Houses of Congress in the next session,” Thorning said.

“We are in the midst of an unprecedented energy boom, one that will bring substantial economic and trade benefits to the United States. The momentum to lift the ban continues to grow on a daily basis and we must seize this opportunity before it slips away,” she added.

Opponents of lifting the ban, which was first implemented during the Arab oil embargoes of the 1970s, argue that more oil exports would not only hurt refiners who are booming due to shale production, but cost consumers at the pump.

During the House Energy and Power Subcommittee’s hearing on oil exports Thursday, Charles Ebinger, senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, said lifting the ban would help consumers.

“Lifting the ban actually lowers gasoline prices by increasing the total amount of crude supply,” Ebinger said.

However, even if crude supply increases, analysts say it would raise the price of oil and bring both the U.S. and international crude benchmarks more into balance, which could result in higher gas prices.

Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Information Administration, a federal stat shop, said on Thursday that those current low oil prices are “delivering substantial benefits to the world economy, and U.S. consumers.”

“This reduction in oil prices, if they persist for one year, puts approximately $1.3 trillion in the hands consumers worldwide,” he said.