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Crude Awakening: Why the U.S. Crude Oil Export Ban Needs to Go

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December 2, 2015 | 2,115 views | 4 comments

By Margo Thorning

The Obama administration is currently lifting economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for reductions in its nuclear ability. The deal will open the floodgates for Iranian crude oil to flow into the global market.

But thanks to 40-year-old legislation, the floodgates guarding American crude are locked tight. Except for a handful of exceptions, it's illegal to export U.S.-produced crude. That's right. In effect, we are sanctioning ourselves.

That needs to change. Allowing U.S. crude oil exports would boost GDP, reduce prices at the pump, and create jobs. Our lawmakers shouldn't wait any longer to lift the antiquated ban on crude exports.

The ban originated in the aftermath of the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo. With the fresh memory of "No Gas" signs and long lines at the pump, as well as a new awareness of the country's dependence on imported oil from the Middle East, Congress in 1975 banned U.S. crude exports to safeguard our domestic supply.

It might not even have been a good idea at the time, many economists say. But what's certain is that the export ban has now outlived its original justification.

It's no longer the 1970s. Today, American oil producers are in a dramatically different market. Far from experiencing an oil shortage, the United States is now one of the top producers of fossil fuels in the world. In mid-June, our nation produced a record-breaking 9.3 million barrels of crude oil per day.

The outdated ban has also left Americans with a mismatched oil refining system. The Gulf Coast oil refineries, made to handle heavy crude oil, are not equipped to deal with the "lighter, sweeter" crude coming in from North Dakota and Texas. Some of that oil has no place to go because of the ban.

Letting American crude flow freely would mean big financial gains at home. According to Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, ending the ban would help give the economy a $23 billion boost by 2030.

A green light for crude exports would also mean more jobs -- nearly 400,000 annually. Lift the ban and the United States would see an additional 964,000 jobs in 2018.

Because of lower oil prices, the energy sector has laid off thousands of workers since last year. If the ban remains, total layoffs could worsen.

Removing the ban would bolster U.S. crude production and, by adding to global oil supply, reduce global crude prices. As a result, according to energy researcher IHS, ending the ban would slash gas prices by an average of 8 cents per gallon per year. Over the next 15 years, that would add $265 billion to consumers' pocketbooks.

Unleashing U.S. crude exports would also strengthen national security. Lifting the ban could help loosen Russia's energy grip on our European allies. According to the American Action Forum, U.S. crude exports "could result in the displacement of over one-third of Russia's exports to Eastern Europe alone" and reduce Russia's oil revenue by about $58 million per day.

Congress has taken the first step toward ditching the ban. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill to lift it. But there's still a long road until full approval.

John Boehner recently asserted, "certainly the United States should not be the only country left in the world with such a ban in place." He's right.

If Iran is allowed to export crude oil, why can't the leader of the free world?

Margo Thorning is Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for The American Council for Capital Formation.
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Your Opinions and Comments

January 11 at 8:57pm
Obama said the prices for Energy "Would necessarily skyrocket" under his environmental plan. He wouldn't lift the ban on oil if he thought for a second it would make it cheaper and lower our prices allowing us to... More ›

4th Generation Texan  
Sutherland Spriungs  
January 11 at 3:31pm
Sorry, but I disagree...we do not need this ban lifted at this time. Wilson County and neighboring Counties need for the price of crude to go up so that there is more activity in the oil field. Why do you think the price... More ›

Jeffery Legere  
Floresville, TX  
January 8 at 8:00pm
I can't see how you rationalize increases the demand for oil out of american soil. It would increase the price of domestic oil and increase the rate that we pull oil out and put that carbon into the atmosphere. Isn't there... More ›

December 8, 2015 8:26am
We have the cheapest prices for gas in the world. Sorry ,but when all the oil people are screaming to lift the ban, my BS radar goes off. I have a sneaking suspicion that lifting the ban will lift prices because it creates a... More ›

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