Menendez Condemns Moniz’s Oil-Export Comments

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Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., addresses the closing session of the United Auto Workers Community Action Program 2006 Legislative Conference in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006. The audience listened to several Democratic speakers, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who focused on economic issues and the troubled U.S. auto industry, which is losing market share to foreign manufacturers, and bracing for tens of thousands of layoffs. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  
National Journal
Amy Harder
Dec. 16, 2013, 12:27 p.m.

Lift­ing the ban on crude-oil ex­ports would be­ne­fit ma­jor oil com­pan­ies and hurt Amer­ic­ans, Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Robert Men­en­dez, D-N.J., said in a let­ter to Pres­id­ent Obama on Monday.

En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz sug­ges­ted last week that it was time to re­vis­it the ban on crude-oil ex­ports, which has been in place since the 1970s and re­stricts ex­ports of the fuel in most cases. “Those re­stric­tions on ex­ports were born, as was the De­part­ment of En­ergy and the Stra­tegic Pet­ro­leum Re­serve, on oil dis­rup­tions,” Mon­iz said at a for­um hos­ted by Platts.

Men­en­dez, who has tried without suc­cess to re­peal tax breaks for ma­jor in­ter­na­tion­al oil com­pan­ies, joins Sen. Ed­ward Mar­key, D-Mass., in rais­ing con­cerns over the pro­spects of ex­port­ing crude oil. Mene­dez said in his let­ter that lift­ing the ban could in­crease gas­ol­ine prices in the United States.

“When Con­gress first en­acted lim­its on crude ex­ports in the 1970s fol­low­ing the oil em­bargo, these laws were de­signed to en­hance Amer­ic­an en­ergy se­cur­ity and pro­tect U.S. con­sumers from volat­il­ity and price spikes,” Men­en­dez said in the let­ter. “Des­pite changes in the glob­al en­ergy mar­ket, these goals should re­main pri­or­it­ies in our na­tion’s en­ergy policy. Eas­ing this ban might be a win for Big Oil, but it would hurt Amer­ic­an con­sumers.”

Calls by ma­jor oil com­pan­ies and the trade as­so­ci­ations that rep­res­ent them to lift the ban have grown louder in re­cent months, in­clud­ing from Ex­xon Mo­bil and Con­tin­ent­al Re­sources.

The con­cerns raised by Men­en­dez and Mar­key are the first vol­lies in what’s ex­pec­ted to be a pro­trac­ted and polit­ic­ally tricky de­bate over wheth­er Wash­ing­ton should al­low ex­ports of crude oil. Right now the U.S. only ex­ports a small amount to Canada.

Sen­ate En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has scru­tin­ized the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­prov­al of pro­jects to ex­port nat­ur­al gas, signaled a cau­tious will­ing­ness to de­bate the crude-oil ban.

“Sen­at­or Wyden is aware our coun­try will have a de­bate over ex­port­ing crude oil in the near fu­ture,” spokes­wo­man Sam­antha Of­fer­dahl said in an email to Na­tion­al Journ­al. “He’s will­ing to con­sider all policies and all op­tions, so long as he sees evid­ence that those policies will res­ult in clear be­ne­fits to the Amer­ic­an con­sumer.”

En­ergy and Nat­ur­al Re­sources rank­ing mem­ber Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the com­mit­tee plans to hold a hear­ing on the broad­er is­sue of geo­pol­it­ics and oil and nat­ur­al gas early next year, likely Janu­ary. She is also slated to give a ma­jor speech on fossil-fuel ex­ports also on Janu­ary 7, ac­cord­ing to her of­fice. 

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