Senate Committee Adds to Chorus Pressing for US Oil Exports

Michael Teague  |

With US oil production breaking new records seemingly all the time, calls for lifting an export ban on American crude have been growing in both quantity and substance in recent months.

The most recent instance comes from the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who late last week sent a letter to the Energy Information Administration requesting that it conduct a study on the possible consequences of relaxing the ban if not lifting it altogether.

The letter, signed with bi-partisan support by Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) was short, consisting of a bullet-point list of specific aspects that should be looked at, and was introduced as follows:

“You know better than most the true magnitude of the North American energy renaissance. Thanks in part to the efforts of the Energy Information Administration, we have watched with great interest as oil and gas production continues to break records.”

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The Senate Committee acknowledged that the EIA was bogged down by “limited resources” as well as “numerous reporting requirements to the Congress” but insisted on the study anyhow as resuming US exports has become “a subject of critical concern here in the Congress.”

US oil exports were stopped indefinitely in the early 1970’s, after the mostly Arab members of OPEC decided to embargo the US in response to its support of the state of Israel in the 1973 war between it on one side and Syria, Egypt, and to a much less significant extent Jordan, on the other, causing a massive fuel shortage that was accompanied by great panic and concern over US energy dependence.

This latest push is just one of the most recent examples of pressure to lift the energy export ban. Many US elected officials have called for natural gas exports as well, particularly as a response to Russia’s incursions into Eastern Ukraine. The logic offered for such a move is predicated on helping Ukraine wean itself from its own dependence on Russian energy, but it is not clear how simply adding more oil and/or gas to the global market would in any way substantially assist the embattled former Soviet satellite.

Meanwhile, the Paris-based International Energy Agency just released its own report on global oil supplies for the month of March, indicating a steep drop of over 1.2 barrels per day during the period, 75 percent of which was accounted for by OPEC members. This reduction in global supply would seem to argue in favor of allowing more US oil onto the global market, but OPEC member countries would have absolutely no trouble in resuming production at higher levels, making this bit of data not terribly reliable as an argument either for or against US exports.

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