Energy Department Prepares for Deeper Look at Crude Oil Exports

An empty tanker sits at the pier of Chevron's refinery in Richmond, Calif., which refines roughly 250,000 barrels of oil a day into products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
March 4, 2014, 10:02 a.m.

HOU­S­TON — The En­ergy De­part­ment is pre­par­ing new ana­lyses of the po­ten­tial ef­fects of lift­ing U.S. re­stric­tions on crude oil ex­ports as polit­ic­al pres­sure on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to ease the dec­ades-old lim­its in­creases.

Adam Siem­in­ski, head of the En­ergy In­form­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said he en­vi­sions a “series of re­ports that be­gin to lay the found­a­tions to al­low poli­cy­makers to un­der­stand the is­sue.”

Siem­in­ski said the re­ports will ex­plore how crude ex­ports would af­fect re­fin­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, trans­port­a­tion, wheth­er con­tinu­ing the heavy re­stric­tions could sty­mie pro­duc­tion, and oth­er top­ics.

“EIA is go­ing to be in­vest­ig­at­ing a num­ber of these things and we will come out from time to time with re­ports that should help poli­cy­makers un­der­stand the is­sues,” Siem­in­ski at the IHS CER­AWeek con­fer­ence here.

“There are a num­ber of factors that go in­to try­ing to un­der­stand the role of ex­ports in the en­ergy area,” he ad­ded, not­ing that he has been think­ing of the top­ic since his ten­ure at EIA, the En­ergy De­part­ment’s in­de­pend­ent stat­ist­ic­al ana­lys­is arm, began.

The En­ergy De­part­ment does not set oil-ex­port policy, but de­part­ment of­fi­cials say they can provide ana­lyt­ic­al as­sist­ance to oth­er of­fi­cials and law­makers.

Ma­jor oil com­pan­ies and some law­makers, not­ably Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Re­pub­lic­an, say that the surge in U.S. pro­duc­tion means it’s time to re­con­sider the ma­jor ex­port re­stric­tions im­posed after the 1970s Ar­ab oil em­bargo.

Cur­rent U.S. policy al­lows only a small amount of crude oil ex­ports. Com­pan­ies in­clud­ing Ex­xon and Chev­ron want the lim­its re­laxed.

A pair of Sen­ate Demo­crats last month urged EIA to probe the ef­fects of al­low­ing ex­ports.

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