Barton: End America’s oil export ban

Michael James Barton

Iran’s mullahs are well-prepared for relief from the international sanctions that have kept the country from exporting oil. “Our lost share of the market, which was about 1 million barrels a day, will manifest itself,” Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar declared.

That means the only country whose oil won’t trade freely in the global market is the United States. Thanks to a ban based on panic and wishful thinking imposed in the 1970s, Americans are unable to export oil extracted here. It’s time for Congress to lift the ban.

The U.S. oil export ban was established in 1975 as a response to an Arab oil embargo against the United States in 1973-74. The embargo had a disastrous effect. Thanks to price controls, gasoline shortages were rampant. In order to decrease the nation’s’ dependence on future oil imports, the government barred American companies from exporting almost all crude oil.

But today, the export ban is as outdated and poorly reasoned as the AMC Pacer. As hard as it was to imagine just a few years ago, American ingenuity has left the United States with more than enough crude oil to spare. In fact, we recently surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the number one crude oil producer in the world.

And the promise of overseas purchases would incentivize oil companies to produce even more oil. In fact, production could rise by nearly 3 million barrels per day by 2020, according to the Brookings Institution.

This surge in output would boost the U.S. economy. By 2039, lifting the ban could increase GDP by as much as $1.8 trillion. Greater demand for oil production could also create 1 million jobs, according to a study by IHS.

Consumers also stand to gain from lifting the ban. As companies extract more crude oil, gasoline prices could decrease by up to 12 cents per gallon, according to an estimate by the Center on Global Energy Policy. That would save American households an estimated $3,000 each year.

Lifting the ban would be good for the global economy and international stability. European countries have already urged the United States to lift the ban, putting it on par with U.S. natural gas exports. In a trade document leaked last year, the European Union lamented its dependence on oil from the Middle East and Russia. The United States could be the stable oil supplier the EU needs. Who would we rather our allies be dependent on for oil — us, or Russia?

Michael James Barton is energy advisor at ARTIS Research.