By BRIAN WINGFIELD
Senate Energy Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said the US must
weigh the costs to consumers before ending the 40-year ban on
crude oil exports and he predicted a prolonged debate.
Its fair to say this conversation is not going to
be resolved any time in the next few weeks, Wyden, an
Oregon Democrat and head of the Senate Energy and Natural
Resources Committee, said at a hearing Thursday. It was the
first hearing on the issue in 25 years, he said.
Harold Hamm, chairman of Oklahoma City-based Continental
Resources, told the panel that ending the limits will cut
gasoline prices. Graeme Burnett, senior vice president of
Delta Air Lines, said ending restrictions will raise fuel
The differences between oil producers and users suggest a
lobbying battle ahead as lawmakers reconsider the export ban
enacted after the Arab oil embargo in the 1970s. Senator Lisa
Murkowski of Alaska, the committees top Republican,
opened the debate by calling to lift the ban in a Jan. 7
Murkowski said Thursday she didnt expect President
Barack Obamas administration to lift the ban in coming
months, and she doesnt plan to introduce legislation
any time soon.
What I am hoping for is that we can advance this
discussion so that it is clearly understood, she said.
Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the No. 2 Democrat on the
panel, said new technologies added production and helped
companies in her state. She didnt take a position on
lifting the ban. Landrieu is set to take over the panel when
Wyden becomes chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said as a first step
he would like to consider a deal with Mexico to offer US
light, sweet crude in return for its heavier grade that most
American refineries are geared to handle.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in December said export limits
and other policies from the 1970s may need review. A 1975
law, adopted after the Arab oil embargo, prohibits almost all
US crude from being shipped abroad, though exports of refined
goods such as gasoline and diesel fuel are permitted.
Recent advances in drilling techniques, such as hydraulic
fracturing, have unleashed vast reserves in places like North
Dakotas Bakken shale formation. US crude production
increased 28%, to 2.4 billion bbl annually, from 2007 through
2012, according to the Energy Department.
We believe strongly that the ban on US crude oil
exports is good for consumers, Burnett, of
Atlanta-based Delta, told the committee. If it is lifted,
producers in the Middle East would curb output to boost
global prices, resulting in higher costs for gasoline and
airline tickets, he said.
We need to lift this restriction sooner rather than
later, said Hamm, whose company is the largest
leaseholder in the Bakken oil basin. He also is chairman of
the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance, a group of companies
whose drilling and refining
owned by the same parent.
We are entering a new era of energy abundance in
America and the world, he said. Lower prices are
only brought about by increased supply and greater
competition, he said.
The American Petroleum Institute, the Washington-based lobby
for oil and gas producers, favors easing restrictions.
Refiners who may have to pay higher prices for crude, such as
Valero Energy of San Antonio, oppose the measure.
This is going to be in the to-be-continued
department, Wyden told the group before adjourning the