WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently requested more data on how American gas prices would be affected if a decades-old ban on U.S. crude oil exports is lifted.
Congress is discussing proposals to change or repeal the ban as domestic production of oil and natural gas surges. The law, enacted after the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and resulting energy crisis, prohibits exporting most crude oil to global markets but allows refined products such as gasoline and diesel to leave the country’s borders.
Wyden is the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Cantwell is a senior member of the committee. The two Pacific Northwest senators made the request for more information in a letter to Energy Information Administration head Adam Sieminski.
The letter requested data on:
- U.S. oil production and consumption, both nationally and regionally
- Domestic supplies and prices, nationally and regionally
- The prices that refiners pay for crude oil
- The prices consumers pay for refined products
- The export of refined products
“We need to look at issues of safety and price,” Cantwell said during a hearing on January 30 on the issue of oil exports. “For us in the Pacific Northwest, being an isolated market, we’ve had some of the highest gas prices in the nation. We know that oil markets – and energy supplies that affect our economy – are going to be tight in the future. How do we protect consumers in delivering the most cost-effective resources so that our economy can continue to grow?”
“American consumers and businesses need to know how any future decision to export crude oil produced in the U.S. will affect the prices they pay at the pump,” Wyden said. “Sen. Cantwell and I want Americans to understand how expanded crude exports, should they be allowed, would affect each and every region of the country. It’s important that everyone has the facts before such a major a decision is made.”
Cantwell and Wyden’s letter also calls for the EIA to identify potential routes and methods for transporting the oil to ports. The Pacific Northwest could see more oil trains if the ban is lifted because it is a natural shipping point for crude oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale field to Asian markets, and the rail infrastructure already is in place. In the wake of several recent accidents involving oil trains, both Sen. Wyden and Sen. Cantwell have urged federal regulators, railroads and first responders to ensure new oil train traffic that is coming through Washington and Oregon doesn’t put nearby communities at risk.
The text from the letter sent by Senators Cantwell and Wyden is below:
Dear Administrator Sieminski:
As you know, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 prohibits the export of crude oil from the United States (with some exceptions for crude from Alaska and California, and crude destined for Canada). There is now a discussion underway about whether to overturn this ban to allow free export of U.S. oil.
We would like to understand how allowing unlimited export of American crude oil might affect:
- U.S. oil production, nationally and regionally;
- U.S. oil consumption, nationally and regionally;
- domestic supplies and prices, nationally and regionally, for both:
- crude oil (paid by refiners), and
- refined products (paid by consumers), and
- exports of refined products.
Furthermore, we would like EIA to identify the transit modes and routes that exported crude might be expected to travel.
We look forward to EIA’s comprehensive analysis of this issue.