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Ken Buck: Lift export ban on crude oil

August 4, 2015
In The News

In the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis, President Ford signed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which banned the export of most American crude oil. Rather than shielding the United States from volatile world markets, the ban depressed domestic oil production, made America more dependent on foreign oil, and drove up the price of gas.

By lifting the export ban on crude oil, Congress has an opportunity to encourage job creation in the private sector, bolster national security, and reduce the cost of a critical commodity for consumers. Americans take pride in our domestic products and we have worked hard to open global markets — except for crude oil. That must change.

The results of government market controls are predictable. Allowing American crude oil to enter the global market will increase world supply and decrease the price Americans pay at the pump. Of course, lifting the ban would not mandate that American oil producers sell abroad. There is a compelling case for more refining capacity in the United States that can handle domestic production. But until that capacity comes on line, there is no reason to punish American producers and consumers.

The current law allows refined gasoline exports, but bans crude oil exports. Targeting the oil industry by banning the export of crude oil is unfair. Americans would be livid if we treated wheat growers or other manufacturers like we are treating oil producers. The government does not restrict the sale of wheat to a limited number of domestic bakers creating an artificial price below the world market price.

The exception for exporting refined gas products undermines the outdated predictions of price increases for American gasoline. The United States lifted the export ban on liquefied natural gas for much the same reason. Maintaining America's position in the world energy markets ensures the success of American foreign policy, and protects consumers.

The United States is the world's leading producer of total oil supply. America's oil exports are vital for our foreign policy. Russia uses its energy policy as a weapon against the west, and Iran uses proceeds from its oil supply to fund international terrorism and its nuclear weapon program. It would be tragic if Congress and President Obama allowed more oil to flow out of Iran than flows out of Colorado, Texas, or North Dakota. We should not impose harsher controls on the DJ Basin than on our enemies.

We have effectively embargoed American oil producers and put their job creation in the back seat to outdated economics. Technological innovations and increased demand have sparked a renaissance of American oil production, but the crude oil export ban has prevented America from reaping the benefits. American oil exploration has created a backlog of identified oil reserves that drillers are not pumping out of the ground because of the price and refining pressures imposed by the crude oil export ban. This capacity can be quickly brought on line and used strategically.

Congress and the president should act to correct this flawed policy that hurts the safety and finances of Americans. With a common sense change, we can give the United States a powerful tool to guarantee global stability and security, and to make sure that the economic growth in the energy sector continues to provide valuable jobs to hardworking Americans.

Republican Ken Buck represents Colorado's 4th Congressional District.