Republican Murkowski urges end to U.S. ban on crude exports

Refinery Limits

“There are lot of issues in the energy space that deserve some new analysis and examination in the context of what is now an energy world that looks nothing like the 1970s,” he said at an energy conference in New York.

Murkowski, who vowed to introduce legislation in the absence of administration action, said she wants to settle the issue before a surge in production of lighter sweet crude in North Dakota’s Bakken shale creates a market imbalance. Many U.S. refineries are geared toward processing a heavier grade of the oil.

The Center for American Progress, a Washington-based research group with ties to the Obama administration, faulted Murkowski’s proposal.

“Advocates for oil exports assume that domestic production will grow endlessly,” Daniel J. Weiss, the group’s director of climate strategy, said in a statement that noted forecasts for a peak in output in five years. “We are a long way from true energy security, and we should retain this domestically produced, strategic commodity until then.”

Ban Supporters

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey has said lifting the ban will increase gasoline prices for U.S. consumers as oil companies seek the highest prices, either at home or abroad.

“Crude oil that is produced in the U.S. should be used to lower prices here at home, not sent to the other side of the world,” he wrote in a Dec. 16 letter to Obama.

Murkowski rejected such claims. “If we want to bring down gasoline prices, we should be opening up federal lands to energy production, not closing them off,” she said.

She said Obama has the power to end the ban by declaring crude exports are in the national interest. The U.S. Commerce Department already has the authority to allow crude exports in certain circumstances while the prohibition remains in place.

“Lifting the ban will send a strong signal to the energy markets that as a nation we are serious -- we are serious as a country -- about our emerging role as a major hydrocarbon producer,” said Murkowski, who also called for an end to U.S. restrictions on condensate exports.

Murkowski also questioned whether the State Department is the proper U.S. agency to review TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. has been considering an environmental study of the project for almost a year.

“The course of its review of the Keystone XL has been counterproductive and, frankly, I think it has unduly strained our relationship with Canada,” she said.

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