The Hill: GOP Grills Energy Secretary on Oil Exports

Republican senators repeatedly pushed the secretary of Energy Tuesday to support lifting the ban on oil exports and explain why President Obama does not agree.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the lawmakers at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that oil exports are not within his purview, but nonetheless defended Obama’s opposition to the bills in both chambers to lift the ban. 

“Do you agree that U.S. crude oil exports would benefit the energy security of our allies and trading partners?” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) asked.

“Does the Obama administration oppose all legislative efforts to repeal this crude oil ban?” he also asked.

Moniz said that oil exports are the Commerce Department’s responsibility.

But lifting the ban would not make sense, he added, because the United States still imports a significant amount of oil and exports are not likely to significantly decrease domestic fuel prices.

“We are a 7 million barrel-a-day importer of crude oil, a much greater exporter now of oil products,” Moniz said.

“It is also true that recent studies, including the last summary study of the [Energy Information Administration] on the congressionally requested studies on exports, show that the impacts for the next 10 years or so are likely to be pretty modest, to put it mildly, in terms of exports,” Moniz continued.

But the panel’s Republicans, who voted unanimously in August to pass a bill lifting the export ban, continued to drill Moniz.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said the export ban, put in place in 1975, is outdated, citing many cultural references from that time period.

“It was Abba, it was Captain and Tennille, it was the Eagles. I was in seventh grade,” he said. “But it was a response to an acute crisis that we had.”

Daines said that once Western sanctions on Iran are lifted, the United States will have the strongest limits on oil exports in the world.

“Why should the United States be the only country in the world with a ban on most oil exports?” he asked.

Moniz would only repeat his previous statement, outlining the oil imports the United States still relies upon and the limited price impacts.