The 114th Congress convened January 3 with energy at the top of its agenda. Both the House and the Senate kicked off the new session with approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline. That was just the start. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the new Chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, has promised comprehensive energy legislation based on her Energy 2020 agenda. The House has begun moving other energy legislation as well, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) plans to move forward with his “Architecture of Abundance.” But what about lifting the ban on crude oil exports?
The ban on the export of crude oil was enacted in 1975 in response to the Arab oil crisis. It was intended to shield U.S. consumers from the impact of future oil embargoes by foreign oil-producing nations. The act sought to increase domestic energy supplies and availability, to restrain energy demand, and, in part, banned the export of most domestic crude exports so that crude would be available at home. So why the clamor now to export domestic crude? What has changed?
In fact, many things. Fracking, horizontal drilling and the shale oil revolution have the U.S. on track to overtake Russia and Saudi Arabia as the leading crude oil producer in the world. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently reported that it expects US crude production in 2016 to be close to the record level of 9.6 million barrels per day set in 1970. As a result, the policy battles have begun in the Congress and the groundwork is being laid by both proponents and opponents.
Proponents and Opponents
The industry itself is divided into two camps and specific regional and environmental interests are fully engaged in the debate.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) has led the charge for lifting the ban on crude exports. API has engaged energy consulting firms and think tanks to produce studies on the positive impacts of crude exports on expanded US 0production, jobs, fuel prices, trade and strategic support for allies, and have engaged influential public figures and former officials. Joining API is a single issue coalition of 14 of the nation’s largest independent oil producers. On the other side are independent refiners and another single issue coalition of small refiners, which has issued its own studies on the capacity of U.S. refiners to process domestic crude and published a University of New Hampshire poll demonstrating that voters overwhelmingly support keeping US crude oil in America.