The timing may never be better. Oil prices are low, the U.S. has something of a surplus and everyone acknowledges the need for more trade. Now is the time to lift the outdated oil export ban.
GOP Congressman Joe Barton and Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar make that case in Roll Call.
"The advantages of lifting the ban on crude oil exports are not just theoretical talking points discussed in the halls of Congress, but rather supported by a large and growing body of research by government agencies, academic institutions and think tanks across the political spectrum," they write. "The latest is a study released by the Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group. It highlights the obvious benefits lifting the ban will have on American families and businesses, our economy and global allies."
That study looks at the changing energy landscape.
"The fear of a crippling dependence on foreign oil that existed in the 1970s, when the export ban was put in place, is no longer applicable today," the representatives write. "In fact, the U.S. is now the world's top petroleum producer largely due to our recent ability to produce oil and natural gas from shale formations. The world has changed drastically in the past 40 years and it is time for our policies to accurately reflect the current conditions in which we now live. We must embrace the United States' new leading role on the world energy stage and recognize the value it would create in our everyday lives."
There are some immediate benefits, they say.
"First, lifting the ban will lower, not raise, domestic gasoline prices," Barton and Cuellar write. "This is perhaps the top issue raised by many of our colleagues who are understandably concerned with how a change in policy could affect prices at the pump back home. But numerous studies have shown lifting the ban would put downward pressure on domestic gasoline prices."
One study by Columbia University says lifting the ban "could save consumers as much as 12-cents-per-gallon and a number of other studies that reached similar conclusions."
Second, it would open markets to U.S. light crude.
"To many, the notion of exporting American oil to foreign countries seems illogical because American produced oil should be consumed here at home," they write. "It's an easy argument to make and an easy talking point for people to understand. However, it's overly simplistic and ignores the complex realities that exist in regards to different grades of crude oil and refinery capacity."
There's currently a mismatch between what grade of oil we need and what grade we produce.
As Barton and Cuellar point out, "lifting the ban would allow the U.S. to export some of this light crude, while importing heavy crude that our refineries are better equipped to process."
Lifting the oil export ban makes sense, and the time is right. Barton and Cuellar have a bipartisan bill that now has 70 co-sponsors.
Congressional leadership should act swiftly to repeal the ban.
It's a common sense move with direct benefits to Americans.