U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) released a report this week that outlines the geopolitical implications of lifting the ban on U.S crude oil exports and the ability of the President of the United States to act unilaterally if deemed in the national interest. The report, titled, “Rendering Vital Assistance: Allowing oil Shipments to U.S. Allies” notes that our allies are eager customers for U.S. energy exports:
“Many U.S. allies and trading partners are interested in purchasing American oil to diversify away from Russia, Iran, and other problematic sources. Allowing such shipments would send a powerful signal of support and reliability at a time of heightened geopolitical tensions in much of the world. The mere option to purchase U.S. oil would enhance the energy security of countries such as Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, India, Japan, and South Korea, even if physical shipments did not occur.”
According to the report, in 2012, Poland imported 96 percent of its crude oil from Russia. Lifting the ban on exports would allow this county, whose relationship with the U.S. dates back to the American Revolution, the opportunity to diversify and potentially purchase oil from a longstanding ally. Additional trading partners who could benefit from an open U.S. crude oil market would include Belgium, Netherlands, India, Japan, and South Korea among others.
These benefits were recently noted by two former U.S. Secretaries of Defense. William Cohen, Defense Secretary from 1997-2001, highlighted the importance of this point, recently writing for TIME:
“Energy exports would strengthen NATO and our broader transatlantic relationship at a time of increased Russian aggression. The European Union has responded to Russia’s energy stranglehold by proposing policies designed to avoid future crises of supply and promote self-sufficiency. […]Working with our allies and partners, a joint effort to reduce Europe’s vulnerability to Russian energy coercion would be an important legacy for President Obama and send a signal to President Vladimir Putin that as long as he chooses to use energy as a weapon, the West will defend itself.”
Former Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, writing alongside former National Security Advisor Stephen Handley, recently stated in a Wall Street Journal column:
“Most ominous is Russia’s energy stranglehold on Europe. Fourteen NATO countries buy 15% or more of their oil from Russia, with several countries in Eastern and Central Europe exceeding 50%. […]This situation leaves Europe vulnerable to Kremlin coercion. In January 2009, Russia cut off natural gas to Ukraine, and several European countries completely lost their gas supply. […] Further, revenue from sales to Europe provides Russia with considerable financial resources to fund its aggression in Ukraine.”
While Senator Murkowski and others have introduced legislation that would allow crude oil exports from the U.S., this report highlights a parallel path forward that would get Americans back to work and allow U.S. oil producers to complete on a level playing field. Sen. Murkowski highlighted this fact in a statement issued alongside the report:
“Lifting the ban will bring an array of benefits to our nation: more jobs, more revenues, more production, more security, and more diplomatic leverage on the international stage. Even while Congress works to remove the export ban the administration already has authority, explicitly delegated to it by Congress, to allow for greater oil exports.”
Recognizing that crude oil is no longer in short supply – thanks to advancements in technology and our ability to develop shale formations – the report serves as an important guide for understanding the possible geopolitical benefits of allowing our allies and trading partners to purchase domestically produced crude oil.
There is growing bipartisan support in Congress to lift the ban on oil export – support that is based on the in-depth and exhaustive amount of research from think tanks across the political spectrum, government agencies and universities that have all concluded that lifting the ban will benefit consumers, our economy and allies and trading partners. Today’s report provides further evidence of why the U.S. should remove the ban on oil exports and embrace its role as an energy superpower.