The United States lifted a 40-year ban on oil exports today, marking a historic shift for the booming US oil industry.
While many Democrats opposed it, some joined Republican lawmakers and major oil companies who lobbied hard for lifting the ban, arguing it would create US jobs and boost the security of Washington’s European allies.
“The facts are clear: lifting the ban is good for consumers, our economy, national security and energy security,” said Senator Heidi Heitkamp of oil-rich Nork Dakota.
“By opening up US crude oil to the rest of the world, we would not only provide our allies with a more stable energy trading partner, but we would also reduce the power of countries like Russia, Venezuela, and volatile regions of the Middle East that use their energy dominance to exert influence over our nation and our allies,” she said.
Environmentalists are concerned the move will encourage continued reliance on oil over clean energy, despite US pledges at the Paris climate summit to cut its carbon footprint.
“Dirty, dangerous fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground and liberalizing our export policy is exactly the wrong direction to take,” said Friends of the Earth.
The nongovernmental organization also contended that the ban’s repeal would “increase the frequency of exploding trains and oil spills across the country and in international waters.”
The ban was first imposed in 1975 as the United States was reeling from the 1973-1974 Arab oil embargo, which dealt a heavy shock to the US economy and sent global prices shooting up.
Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries had banned oil exports to the United States in retaliation for Washington’s support of Israel during the Arab-Israeli war.
Seeking greater energy independence, the United States created an emergency stockpile of crude oil, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in 1975 and banned most crude oil exports.
The export ban had a few exceptions. Some 491,000 barrels per day of crude were allowed to be exported from Alaska and California to Canada for domestic use, and imported crude could be re-exported.
With the end of the ban, all 9.2 million barrels produced in the United States a day and the 490.7 million barrels stockpiled commercially are available for export.