Boehner gets on board with ending oil export ban

I received a bit of pushback from some folks on the hill after I wrote about the current version of the energy bill and how it would not do anything to lift the outdated crude oil export ban which is hindering the domestic oil market. (And jobs, by the way.) I was assured that there was a separate initiative which would be moving up the priority ladder (more on that below) that would address the oil ban question, and when I started checking around it sounded like there might actually be a groundswell of support for the idea in Congress. After a period of silence from the leadership, Speaker Boehner came out last night and announced that there is indeed a plan. (US News and World Report)

Opponents of a ban on U.S. exports of crude oil got a powerful ally in House Speaker John Boehner, who spoke out against the ban for the first time Wednesday.

Boehner, talking to reporters on the House’s last day in session before departing for August recess, said he hoped lifting the ban would be a key piece of an energy legislation package set to be introduced this fall to “keep prices affordable, help create jobs and boost our economy.”

“Lifting the ban would create an estimated 1 million jobs here at home, jobs that frankly would be created in every state,” the Ohio Republican said. “It would help bring down prices at the pump for consumers, and it would be good for our allies. … I would support lifting the ban, and hopefully we can work together in a bipartisan fashion to move our energy policies into this century.”

While positive in tone, that’s some fairly standard stuff. To be clear, it’s all true and worth mentioning, but it’s not the sort of thing which strikes me as moving the ball very far downfield against entrenched Democrat opposition. But then Boehner came out and hit on the theme which many of us have been waiting to see in the headlines. Why would our government want to treat the United States worse than Iran?

On Tuesday, Boehner tied the issue to the roiling debate over the Iran nuclear deal, which would lift economic sanctions on the Islamic republic’s exports, saying the re-entrance of Iran on the world’s oil markets makes the argument for lifting the U.S. ban even stronger.

“If the administration wants to lift the ban for Iran, certainly the United States should not be the only country left in the world with such a ban in place,” he said.

That’s exactly the point. The issue of the export ban is a bit wonky and tends to have too many voters’ (and legislators’) eyes glazing over. But the Iran deal is a hot topic this year and it has the entire country engaged. Why on Earth would we unleash Iran to generate huge sums of wealth selling their oil and further cluttering the European competitive market while keeping hobbles on our own producers? There’s a bit of perspective for you.

So what’s coming down the pike? Lisa Murkowski already has legislation in the pipeline and this September may finally be the moment for it to catch on.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today introduced legislation that would end the outdated prohibition on exporting crude oil produced in the United States and provide coastal states from Alaska to Maryland with a fair share of the revenue from oil and natural gas production off their shores.

The Offshore Production and Energizing National Security Act (OPENS Act) combines four bills previously heard by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. At the center of the bill is Murkowski’s Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Lease Sale Act (S.1278), which expands offshore lease sales in Alaska and provides revenue sharing for the state and local communities.

This is another one of those rare examples where Congress actually has it in their power to do something big and productive which garners bipartisan support around the country. (Outside of the liberal enclaves of the enviro-warriors, anyway.) Lifting the ban will mean the recovery of jobs we’ve begun losing as the price of oil crashed, it will even the field once again between us and Iran, and it will further weaken Russia if we move into the European market more strongly. Wonky or not, it’s time to have our elected officials get to work on this task.