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Lobby says will push Congress, president on crude exports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. oil industry’s powerful lobbying arm said Friday it will push Congress and the Obama administration to consider lifting a ban on crude oil exports in the new year as domestic production is due to hit a record in 2016.

U.S. crude oil exports are heavily restricted under a 40-year-old policy that is no longer needed since the country has transformed itself into a “global energy superpower,” the American Petroleum Institute (API) said in a statement.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz raised eyebrows at an industry conference in New York last week when he said some energy policies, such as the crude export ban, “deserve some new analysis and examination” since the current domestic energy picture “looks nothing like the 1970s.”

“It is undeniable that our current production has rendered our policies obsolete,” Erik Milito, API director of upstream and industry operations, told reporters on a conference call.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its Annual Energy Outlook on Monday that the advent of “fracking” shale formation has reinvigorated crude oil production, which will rise by 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) every year until 2016, when it will total 9.5 million bpd.

By 2019, it will peak at 9.61 million bpd, nearly matching a 1970 record of 9.64 million bpd.

The API said in light of this forecast, Moniz’ remarks and recent newspaper editorials calling for a revamp of crude export policy, it is the right time to reopen the debate with Congress and the administration.

Milito said API plans to talk to Senate Energy Committee leaders, especially Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to make sure “there is a recognition that oil and natural gas are driving the economy” and that “obstacles” to exports should be removed.

Murkowski is due to release a white paper in mid-January weighing the pros and cons of lifting the ban.

Milito said API will also engage with Sen. Mary Landrieu, the oil industry-friendly Louisiana Democrat who is widely expected to take the helm of the energy committee after an imminent reshuffle.

Wyden is expected to take over Sen. Max Baucus’ chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee since Baucus has been nominated by President Barack Obama as the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Although the president has the executive authority to lift the ban on domestic oil exports himself, API said it is necessary to engage and educate Congress in the debate because a presidential order can be reversed by the next president.

“We would call for a thorough debate to look at it across the board. The market needs certainty to be able to move forward,” Milito said.

The lobby group also contends that giving U.S. crude oil greater access to world markets also provides an outlet for surging domestic production of lighter crude.

“Trapping light, domestic crude within our borders only penalizes U.S. production, which could mean higher costs for refiners and consumers,” Milito said.