By Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) - 02/06/15 01:31 PM EST
Recently, U.S. oil prices hit their lowest level in nearly six years. This is good news for American consumers, business and our economy as a whole. The only thing it is not good for is the oil and gas industry’s bottom line. And that’s why, in an effort to protect its own profits, Big Oil is now turning to Congress to try to change a 40-year-old law meant to protect American consumers and our national security.
The shale oil boom has been a boon for American energy independence and consumer prices. We are now producing more oil than at any point in the last 30 years. And when combined with the fuel economy legislation that I helped author in 2007 and that President Obama accelerated in 2009, it has been paying off at the pump for consumers, where drivers are getting more miles to the gallon at lower prices. These are two big developments — increased domestic production and smart efficiency laws — that are contributing to the falling prices we’re seeing today in America.
Last year, our fuel economy for all new vehicles reached an all-time high of 24.1 miles per gallon, even as the carbon emissions from those new vehicles plummeted to an all-time low. These fuel efficiency standards will save American families an average of $650 a year per vehicle between now and 2025.
Meanwhile, our domestic production of oil and natural gas is breaking records. We need to continue to increase the safety and environmental standards for this production as we transition to cleaner forms of energy. But our increasing oil production is benefiting American consumers and our energy security. The U.S. benchmark price of oil has been trading at a discount to international prices. That lower U.S. oil price has been benefiting U.S. consumers in the form of lower prices at the pump.
Right now, this gas price slide is acting like a massive stimulus for middle-class families and small businesses across the country. Every penny reduction in gas prices translates into $1 billion in consumer savings. IHS estimates that lower U.S. oil prices could reduce the unemployment rate by half a percent.
And we’re sapping the economic strength of the oil petro-dictators, pitting them against each other in a price war, where drivers are the big winners. If prices stay this low, the oil-producing cartel known as OPEC will lose $590 billion in annual revenue.
But all of this could go away if the oil industry gets its way with a new push to export America’s oil to the world’s highest bidders. The biggest oil companies and their allies in Congress have made overturning the decades-old law that keeps America’s oil here in America their biggest priority for 2015. They even offered an amendment to the Keystone Canadian oil export pipeline to overturn the ban.
And why do oil companies want to repeal this law? So they can sell our oil to foreign nations for higher prices at the expense of American consumers and our national security.
The oil industry is asking American consumers to pay higher prices to benefit their bottom line. Exporting U.S. oil would reverse the trend that has led us to our lowest dependence on foreign oil in three decades. And it would send oil overseas to be refined, instead of putting more Americans back to work refining our own oil on our own soil.
The oil industry is calling for the export of American oil at a time when we still import more than 5 million barrels of oil a day from countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and even Russia. We should not even contemplate exporting our oil at a time when we are still reliant on foreign oil from unstable regions and send young men and women in uniform abroad to protect energy interests.
In the last few decades, we’ve seen massive gas price spikes. American consumers have spent an ever-increasing share of their income on energy. And now, just when American families are starting to enjoy the benefits of our increasing oil production and efficiency gains, the oil industry is asking Americans to throw it all away and allow them to send our oil overseas.
That’s a bad deal for American consumers, and it’s a self-serving attempt to increase oil industry profits. So let’s keep our oil in the United States for our national and economic security. Let’s keep prices lower at the pump, instead of pumping up profits for oil companies by exporting U.S. oil abroad.
Markey is Massachusetts’ junior senator, serving since 2013. He sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Foreign Relations; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.