Senate Republicans on Thursday laid out a series of arguments that they said justify lifting the 40-year-old ban on exporting crude oil.
At a hearing of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Republicans said lifting the ban would decrease gasoline and diesel prices in the United States, add 1 percent to the gross domestic product, create a million jobs and improve the country’s standing internationally.
But senators acknowledged that getting public support might be tough, especially if the public thinks it would increase fuel prices.
“I think it is time to look at this policy and to repeal it for a lot of what I consider to be substantive policy reasons,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Man charged with threatening Alaska senators pleads not guilty Two women could lead a powerful Senate spending panel for first time in history MORE (R-Alaska).
“But at the end of the day, the people that I work for really don’t give a hoot about what the policy is. What they want to know is, ‘is it gonna cost me more money when I’m filling up?’ ”
The witnesses Republicans brought to the hearing assured them that fuel prices would actually fall.
Carlos Pascual, a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said gasoline prices are based on the price of Brent crude, an international benchmark.
“If we are able to export light, tight oil from the United States, we add to the global supplies that contribute to that Brent crude benchmark,” he said. “As a result of that, we help drive down the international oil price that is tied to the price of gasoline in the United States and around the world.”
Murkowski’s colleagues focused on different results of lifting the ban.
“CBO’s estimating that our GDP will grow by 2 percent over the next five or six years, it’s awful,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said. “We can increase it by 1 percent just with exports.”
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said exports would be beneficial internationally.
“Many of the world’s energy resources are in unstable regions,” he said. “I do believe the world should rely more on American energy, instead of Russia or the Middle East.”
But the panel’s Democrats were not on board.
Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellScott says he will block nominees until Biden officials testify on supply chain crisis Airlines staff up for holiday onslaught Manchin set to make or break Biden's climate pledge MORE (D-Wash.) said she was worried that prices would increase domestically.
“Economic effects of oil and gas prices ripple through our economy,” she said. “Lower oil prices act like a tax cut for the vast majority of Americans. No one wants to see the price at the pump go up.”
Cantwell was also concerned about the safety of moving more crude oil and what it would mean for the country’s energy security.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he wasn’t completely opposed to easing the export ban.
But he proposed a limit on exports based on how much the country is producing, in order to protect low domestic prices.
“In West Virginia, it would be hard for me to explain to the people, to grasp the whole world market, if you will, that if we start unfettered export, it would reduce the price of their gas,” he said.
But instituting a “trigger” to stop exports if production falls could work well, Manchin said.
“I just think there’s a win-win here. We’ve just got to find it.”