The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Crude Oil Exports Vote

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 7, 2015

The U.S. House has an important vote scheduled for Friday on legislation that would lift the 1970s-era ban on domestic crude oil exports. It’s an historic chance for U.S. policymakers to affirm that America’s energy picture is fundamentally and dramatically improved from where it was four decades ago – thanks to surging domestic production that has made the United States the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas.

It boils down to this: A vote for the bill would be a vote for U.S. jobs, economic growth, trade benefits  and strengthened American security. It would be a vote for U.S. consumers and American global competitiveness. It would be a vote for America’s friends abroad, who see U.S. energy as a global supply diversifier and stabilizer. As one ally said earlier this year, with U.S. oil exports the “world itself will be a … safer place.”

We’ve addressed the excuses some give for keeping U.S. oil export policy stuck in a 40-year-old time warp – back when the United States responded to rising oil imports by shutting in domestic production. That world doesn’t exist anymore, and the justifications for retaining an anachronistic oil exports policy are a pile of fig leaves, blown away by America’s energy renaissance.

For example, consumer costs. Every major study, from Brookings Energy Security Initiative, to Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), says lifting the ban would not negatively affect consumers and actually could bring lower prices at the pump:


Another excuse given is that lifting the ban would impact a president’s ability to protect our national security – a flimsy excuse because the legislation specifically says it “does not limit the authority of the President under either the Constitution, the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the National Emergencies Act, or the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to prohibit exports.”

It’s simply time for Congress to acknowledge the outdated oil export ban no longer is justified. In a new editorial, USA Today argues:

“[W]hatever use there was for an export ban in the '70s has long disappeared. Congress should lift the ban, starting with a vote in the House set for later this week, and President Obama should sign the measure … Four decades have passed since the energy crisis. It’s time to adopt policies that fit the times.”

In a letter to congressional leaders, 135 senior legislative officials from 40 states and Puerto Rico voiced support for ending the export ban, with Colorado State Senate President Bill Cadman saying in a statement accompanying the letter that lifting the ban would create state jobs and protect U.S. strength overseas. A number of the same points are contained in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi from business association executives:

[L]ifting self‐imposed restrictions on U.S. crude oil exports will introduce an alternative and reliable source of energy to the global marketplace, providing international consumers with greater choice and helping to curb the use of energy as a political weapon. In a recent Wall Street Journal op‐ed article, Leon Panetta, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama, and Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush, strongly endorsed efforts to lift the ban on U.S. oil exports. They wrote: “The U.S. remains the great arsenal of democracy.  It should also be the great arsenal of energy.”

Lifting the ban would reset U.S. trade policy on domestic crude to the way it was before the ban was implemented – again, because the circumstances today are completely different from those that existed then. The legislation would not affect the president’s authority to act in an emergency. Rather, it would let free markets work for the United States as they historically have, providing stimulus for new domestic growth.

It’s time. Lawmakers should take the opportunity to end this energy version of “That ‘70s Show” and bring U.S. oil export policy up to speed with a new American energy century.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.