The top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee urged President Barack Obama to end a 39-year ban on exports of U.S. crude oil, joining what is shaping up as an major election-year debate over energy policy.
“We need to act before the crude oil export ban causes problems in the U.S. oil production, which will raise prices and therefore hurt American jobs,” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said today in remarks at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Most exports of U.S. crude oil are prohibited under a 1975 law meant to counter surging gasoline prices after an Arab oil embargo. Advances in drilling techniques have led to increased production, and the Paris-based International Energy Agency projects that the U.S. will surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2015.
Domestic production increased to 8.12 million barrels a day in the last full week of December, the most in 25 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Output surpassed imports in October for the first time since 1995.
Murkowski spoke hours before Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, is to deliver an annual speech on the state of American energy. Her comments may signal the fight ahead on Capitol Hill over the export issue.
The Washington-based oil and gas industry group, which lobbies on behalf of companies including Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California, and Exxon Mobil Corp. of Irving, Texas, last month said Obama should use his authority to determine that exporting U.S. oil is in the national interest.
“The energy policy choices we make today are among the most important and far reaching policy decisions we will make in the 21st century,” Gerard was set to say, according to excerpts of his address released in advance. “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reshape, realign and reorder the world’s energy market and improve domestic prosperity to an unprecedented degree.”
According to a planning document obtained by Bloomberg News last year, API is developing a legal analysis to support more oil exports -- including potentially invoking World Trade Organization rules against restrictions.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said Dec. 12 that the foreign sales restrictions may be outdated.