Former Obama aide backs crude oil exports

Larry Summers, a former top economic aide to President Obama, said Tuesday that he supports lifting the decades-long ban on crude oil exports.

Summers, who has also served as president of Harvard University, said lifting the ban would bring a wide range of benefits to the United States, including lower gasoline prices.

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“Permitting the exports of oil will actually reduce the price of gasoline,” Summers said at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution.

Summers, who led the National Economic Council for most of 2009 and 2010, gave his speech to unveil a new report from Brookings that endorses ending the export ban.

Among other benefits, Brookings predicted that allowing exports would improve the economy, increase gross domestic product, decrease unemployment and improve the United States’ energy security.

Summers also spoke about climate change, calling it a “profoundly important problem.” But he said oil exports would not exacerbate climate change.

He predicted that Obama would move to loosen oil export restrictions if Congress didn’t act. “The president has spoken often of his commitment to act if Congress will not and his determination to use executive authority to the fullest extent,” he said.

Some high-profile members of Congress have asked that the export ban be lifted, including Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), along with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).

Summers is one of the most high-profile former Obama officials to back oil exports. Current aides and officials in the administration have not endorsed lifting the ban, which was put in place in the 1970s in an attempt to shield the United States from international energy crises.

Asked about Summers’ comments later in the day, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama’s position hadn’t changed.

“We're always taking a careful look at these … dynamic energy markets and assessing the sort of economic, environmental and security opportunities and challenges that may exist,” Earnest told reporters.

“But at this point, I don't have any change in policy to announce.”

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department allowed two companies to export a very lightly processed oil that it ruled was not crude.