The House energy bill looks like it will not include a repeal of the crude oil export ban. Why?

The House of Representatives is putting the finishing touches on the new energy bill, with a key hearing scheduled to take place tomorrow as the details are finalized. Unfortunately, at least according to the chair of the subcommittee on Energy and Power, there’s one important item which doesn’t seem to have made it to the table for discussion – the ancient and outdated ban on crude oil exports. Given our recent discussions on the topic and the opportunities this represents on multiple fronts – including national security – it’s difficult to understand how this issue didn’t make the cut.

A repeal of the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports is unlikely to be included in comprehensive energy legislation being drafted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) told Bloomberg BNA.

Changes to the ban, put in place in 1975 in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, have been considered a possibility for the bill, being written by Republican leaders on Energy and Commerce. However, Whitfield, who chairs the subcommittee on Energy and Power, said he didn’t think such a measure would be included.

“I would be surprised if it were in there,” Whitfield said in an interview. “We’ve already laid out the four concepts for the energy bill.”

Excuse me, Congressman, but you’ve already laid out the four concepts in the bill? Was there a rule we missed somewhere along the line which limits our collective attention span to four concepts? If you feel there is some useful purpose being served by this ban, please feel free to expand on that in the hearings and we’ll be ready to listen, but essentially saying, we don’t have room for it isn’t a very good explanation.

I wrote over the weekend about a very persuasive speech by Carly Fiorina in which she explained one of the biggest points of potential leverage we could employ against Vladimir Putin. Russia’s biggest hold they have on many of our European allies is their oil pipeline. By threatening that supply they are able to bend many otherwise friendly states to their way of thinking. One of the biggest moves the United States could make (short of boots on the ground) in freeing up our allies would to be to offer them other markets for their energy needs.

Beyond that there is the simple matter of being competitive in the energy market. The customers are going to buy the oil and it represents a vast amount of wealth. Would you rather see that cash flowing to American interests and job creators or have it go to further expanding Putin’s estimated one trillion dollar personal fortune? Math is hard, but this one should be a fairly easy problem even for remedial students.

The US is now a global energy leader. The boom in domestic production presents opportunities for the United States far beyond cheaper gas and more jobs. The hearing is tomorrow, so perhaps there is still time.

Whitfield told Bloomberg BNA that he has yet to take position on the issue of crude oil exports and would learn more about the issue during a subcommittee hearing on the topic planned for March 3.

“It’s our first opportunity to really start exploring the issue,” Whitfield said. “This is our first opportunity to really start asking questions about the pros and cons of crude oil exports.”

In case you would like to share your concerns about including a repeal of the ban in these discussions with Congressman Whitfield before the hearings begin, you may do so here.

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