The time is right. Nearly everyone is on board. When Congress reconvenes in Washington this week, both the House and the Senate should pass bills lifting the oil export ban.
Even the Obama administration is in favor of this common-sense move to lift outdated protectionist measures put in place in the 1970s. And a new report from Obama's Energy Department finds that "Petroleum prices in the United States, including gasoline prices, would be either unchanged or slightly reduced by the removal of current restrictions on crude-oil exports."
So who's standing in the way of lifting the ban? Primarily, it's environmentalists who aren't against the ban in particular - they're just against fossil fuels.
"Their basic argument is revealing: ending the crude oil export ban will lead to more, cheaper oil for billions around the world - and that is why it is bad," explains Alex Epstein, writing in Forbes. "For example, the anti-fossil fuel, anti-nuclear Center for American Progress published a report arguing that we need to ban oil exports because energy liberation would lead to a ‘worst case' additional 3.3 million barrels - 139 million gallons of oil - per day, enough for 46 million Americans to get to work, to take family vacations, to make life-saving medical devices, to power the diesel farm equipment that feeds billions."
But this argument is deeply flawed, from a cost-benefit analysis. The benefits of cheap energy far, far outweigh the costs.
"It is basic economics that liberating crude oil exports means more oil (and oil-based materials such as plastics) at lower prices for more people," Epstein writes. "And the fact is that the more oil and fossil fuels we use - though they do have (wildly exaggerated) risks and side effect - the better and safer life gets for billions of people, including (non-millionaire-income) Americans."
Alex Mills of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers explained recently how lifting the export ban would benefit both the U.S. and world economies.
"Oil production has grown more in the United States over the past five years than anywhere else in the world," he wrote. "With these changes has come a widening gap among the types of oil that U.S. fields produce, the types that U.S. refiners need, the products that U.S. consumers want, and the infrastructure in place to transport the oil. Allowing companies to export U.S. crude oil as the market dictates would help solve this mismatch. Removing all proscriptions on crude oil exports will strengthen the U.S. economy and promote the efficient development of the country's energy sector. Crude oil exports could generate upward of $15 billion a year in revenue by 2017 at today's prices, according to industry estimates."
It just makes sense. Congressman Joe Barton, R-Arlington, has already filed a bill to lift the ban, and last month the Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings on it.
"The U.S. has long been committed to free trade and open markets; it's time we practice what we preach when it comes to energy," Barton says.
He's right. It's time to lift the ban.