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Zinke a key lawmaker in removing U.S. crude export ban

U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., is making his case for removing the national ban on crude exports.

Zinke told journalists Wednesday the 1970s ban on exporting U.S. oil is hurting the economy, both nationally and in Montana. He estimated that increased Bakken activity resulting from oil exports would create 2,400 jobs in Montana, primarily in the Eastern Montana oil patch and Billings.

“We’re the only country in the world that maintains a ban of exporting crude,” Zinke said. “Even Iran can now export crude, and I think it’s time we move forward.”

The House will vote Friday on lifting the ban. The primary sponsor of the bill is Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Zinke said he’s optimistic President Barack Obama will sign the deal.

The United States hasn’t completely closed the valve on crude exports. In August, the Obama administration allowed the export of up to 100,000 barrels a day of light crude to Mexico.

The U.S. Senate is also looking at lifting the ban. Last week, the Senate Banking Committee heard testimony on lifting the crude oil ban. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., a committee member, said afterward that there should be a debate on lifting the export ban, but a broader comprehensive energy discussion, with renewable resources as part of the conversation, is needed.

The senator said he also wanted the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund to be part of the talks.

Related: White House issues veto threat for U.S. House oil export bill

In the end, Tester opposed lifting the ban, as proposed, and said more attention needs to be given to determining whether lifting the ban would increase gas prices.

“This bill has real merit, but we need to have a more thorough discussion,” Tester said. “We’ve got to make sure that this will make our country truly energy secure while lowering the price of energy.”

Economist Paul Polzin, of the University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said the domestic oil shortage that led to the ban in the 1970s as America tried to minimize oil imports is no longer an issue.

The oil shale boom has made the United States one of the world’s largest oil producers.

“That ban was initiated in the 1970s when we were an oil-importing nation. We had some very good reasons for doing that,” Polzin said. “The last few years of the shale oil revolution has just turned the entire oil market upside down.”

Oil prices are set by a world market, Polzin said. The consequences of the United States lifting its export ban wouldn’t change much. It also might not breathe new life into the sluggish Bakken oil patch. Finding ways to get Bakken oil out of the ground more cheaply will be a bigger factor in regional oil production, Polzin said. The cost of production is decreasing quickly on a per-barrel basis.

Zinke is also sponsoring a bill to make mining and drilling easier on Indian reservations. Thursday, the House will vote on the Native American Energy Act, which would exempt tribes from some of the federal environmental review policies for mining and drilling on federal lands.

Oil drilling on land held in trust by the federal government, but owned by tribes of individual tribal members, wouldn’t be subject to the same rules as public lands held by the federal government.

This article was written by Tom Lutey from Billings Gazette, Mont. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

2 comments

  1. Tester opposes ending the ban because he believes it’s possible ending the ban won’t lower oil prices.

    In other words, he’s engaging in the losing game of predicting oil prices. But he’s willing to engage in a foolish game that promises only ONE likely outcome — fewer oil jobs in Montana and North Dakota.

    Oil is now coming from more places around the world than ever before. The price will continue to rise and fall, but with more oil coming from an increasing number of sources, it becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, for OPEC to wield power over pricing.

    Ending the ban on US exports would destroy OPEC’s role.

  2. right now according to what i watched on cspan the president has and has always had the power to lift the ban. every president since the law was enacted could have done this but hasnt.

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