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New Bill to Lift U.S. Crude Export Ban

Oil Rig at Sunset

By Kathryn Stone 2015-05-13 16:44:05

A new bill introduced on Wednesday seeks to lift the over 40-year ban on the export and sale of U.S. crude oil outside of the country’s borders. 

Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are the sponsoring the legislation, which will reclassify crude and condensate oil – a light petroleum oil- so that they can be exported freely without licenses from the Commerce Department. 

“The 1970s-era ban on exporting American crude oil is as outdated as the typewriters on which the policy was written. It’s past time for an upgrade,” said Heitkamp in a press statement today. 

According the bill’s supporters, the new legislation is aimed at growing the U.S. economy and ensuring energy independence. Additionally, U.S. allies could purchase oil directly from the U.S.  instead of having to rely on ‘volatile’ countries such as those in the Middle East or ‘unfriendly’ nations like Venezuela or Russia.  Were the ban lifted, estimates suggest that oil exports would rise to 1.8 million barrels per day by 2017.

The ban on crude exports was prompted by the 1973 oil embargo by several Arab countries. With the ban, congress attempted to reduce the impact of crude market volatility on the U.S. economy by keeping U.S. oil supplies at home. However, several market analysts have questioned whether the ban has ever achieved this desired result. 

The new legislation introduced today would likely herald in further U.S. oil exploration efforts, which may prove to be a double-edged sword. On one side it could support up to 1 million additional jobs according to recent industry studies and it could drive down the global price of oil. On the other side it could lead to exploitation of America’s natural resources. 

For this reason, conservationists have been quick to criticize the lifting of the ban. In a statement released today Marcie Keever Friends of the Earth Oceans and Vessels Program Director commented that, “Repealing the ban would open the floodgates to more crude oil extraction and the burning of petroleum products, which would worsen the impacts of climate disruption. Keeping the crude export ban in place would help to keep this dirty, dangerous, climate-disrupting fossil fuel in the ground where it belongs.”