Oil lobby sets sights on export ban

The country’s main oil lobby is prioritizing its advocacy efforts this year on overturning the decades-old ban on exporting crude oil.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, singled out the export ban in a Monday speech on the oil and natural gas industry’s policy wish list for the year.

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“Perhaps no issue better captures the potential and ongoing tension between America’s 20th-century energy reality — a reality of scarcity and dependence — versus our 21st-century reality — one of abundance and energy leadership,” Gerard declared.

He called the export ban, which was enacted in 1975 to protect the country’s economy from OPEC’s embargo and resulting price fluctuations, “a burdensome relic of America’s era of energy scarcity.”

It “does nothing more than impose an unnecessary cost on consumers and American business’s global competitiveness,” he said.

Oil companies have focused on pushing Congress to allow oil exports recently, arguing that it is the next logical policy step in response to the recent boom in domestic oil production.

The United States became the world’s largest producer of oil last year, thanks in part to unconventional drilling techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. But unrefined petroleum products still cannot be shipped overseas.

But many Democrats and some Republicans aren’t on board, and argue that oil exports could increase costs in the United States for consumers and industries that rely on petroleum.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wants the ban lifted, and has indicated that it will be a top priority of her leadership of the panel.

Gerard welcomed Murkowski’s support. “The sooner the better,” he said of lifting the ban.

The oil and natural gas boom and resulting abundance of domestic energy was a central theme in Gerard’s “state of American energy” address, which he gives every year. It gives the United States the opportunity to “permanently diminish” both energy scarcity and dependence on foreign energy sources, he said.

Gerard argued for policies that would help, not hurt, the oil industry’s boom.

That includes stopping new regulations like the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone reduction rule, getting rid of the EPA’s ethanol mandate and building more infrastructure like the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

“The needlessly protracted fight over the Keystone XL pipeline only deprives tens of thousands of hardworking Americans of well-paying jobs and our nation of a safe and efficient means of transporting much-needed North American energy resources,” he said.

Gerard applauded announcements from Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress that they will soon vote on bills to approve Keystone. Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced a bill earlier Tuesday that has 60 co-sponsors.

“I hope this is the new normal,” Gerard said.