The exports haven’t risen to the amount where they’re driving prices, but the oil industry has shown indications of a desire to ramp up petroleum exports, including from the Keystone XL pipeline project if it’s approved, said Daniel Weiss, an energy and climate specialist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning research center in Washington.
“That could harm people at the pump,” Weiss said.
Although refined fuels such as gasoline are exported, U.S. law essentially forbids exports of crude oil. The oil industry hopes to change that as the nation pumps more crude, but the immediate fight is over natural gas exports.
The government has approved major exports so far just from one project, Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal. That’s a 2 billion-cubic-feet-per-day project in Cameron Parish, on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.
Analysts such as Charles Ebinger of the Brookings Institution, a research center in Washington, say exports would help the U.S. natural gas industry. The industry, they say, has been slowed by low domestic prices caused by the nation’s glut of natural gas.
“While it is clear that domestic natural gas prices will increase if natural gas is exported, most existing analyses indicate the implications of this price increase are likely to be modest,” Ebinger concluded in a recent report.
Lawmakers such as Oklahoma Republican Rep. James Lankford want exports approved, saying that would boost investment in drilling.
“We have jobs sitting around ready to go,” he said recently.
But Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Markey, who’s the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, argue that “the cost of natural gas for American consumers will skyrocket” if the country’s natural gas bounty is opened to the world market. They cite a January report from the EIA that concluded large-scale natural gas exports would raise U.S. prices significantly.
“U.S. law has long held that imports and exports of energy must be considered differently than other commodities, because the nation’s economic and national security rely on its ability to obtain affordable energy,” Wyden wrote Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a letter last week questioning the wisdom of exports.