Oil producers call for lifting export ban after Iran deal

The oil industry is pushing Congress to lift the decades-old ban on American crude oil exports to help producers cope with the implications of a nuclear deal with Iran. 

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced the landmark deal, which will allow a series of economic and export sanctions on Iran to end in exchange for the country rolling back its nuclear program. 

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That means Iran could soon begin exporting more oil than it is now. The Wall Street Journal reported this month that Iran would look to double its oil exports after the sanctions are lifted. 

The American oil industry said Tuesday that crude oil producers in the U.S. should be able to join the international market as well. 

“Once oil sanctions on Iran are lifted, today’s deal will soon put America’s oil producers at a competitive disadvantage on the global marketplace,” Independent Petroleum Association of America President Barry Russell said.

“As soon as Iran is permitted to export its surplus oil on the world market, why can’t we allow our own companies to do the same with their American-made surplus of crude oil? It’s an action that would lower gasoline prices for American consumers while positioning the United States more powerfully in the international energy arena.”

Producers for American Crude Oil Exports (PACE) said the U.S.'s export ban "threatens workers, government revenues, and the United States’ relationship with our international trading partners."

“If the federal government is going to green light Iranian crude oil exports, it should also allow U.S. companies to compete on the world market and let U.S. consumers reap the benefits in the form of lower gasoline prices and new jobs,” PACE executive director George Baker said. 

Some lawmakers, led by Alaska Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Republican Sen. Collins considering run for Maine governor in 2018 Alaska senators push bill to allow Arctic drilling MORE (R-Alaska), have pushed for congressional action on repealing the export ban this session. Murkowski released a statement Tuesday saying she is “skeptical” about the Iran deal, though she didn’t mention the oil exports issue. 

In June, though, she warned that lifting sanctions on Iran would “disadvantage” American oil companies.

“We are letting Iran export its oil to markets that we prevent our own companies from accessing,” Murkowski said then. “Any deal that lifts sanctions on Iranian oil will disadvantage American companies unless we lift the antiquated ban on our own oil exports. The impending deal with Iran is at the center of the nexus between national security and energy policy.”

Opponents of lifting the ban said Tuesday that the oil industry should wait for lawmakers to assess the deal before demanding the ban be rescinded. 

“Let the ink dry and the hearings take place, and let the ability to lock in a non-nuclear Iran be the focus of the debate,” CRUDE Coalition executive director Jay Hauck said. “There is plenty of time later to discuss profiteering."