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Some Refiners Increase Foreign Oil Imports at Expense of American Workers

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil in storage has exceeded 90 percent capacity and remains at 80-year highs. Despite the record-level supplies of U.S. crude oil, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that U.S. imports of foreign oil are increasing:

“Total crude-oil imports rose for three straight months between April and July—a total of 1.7% in the period, according to the most recently available data from the Energy Information Administration. Imports of light crude grew more rapidly, from 5.6% of total imports in April to 11% in July.”

Domestic refiners have an option to purchase U.S. crude oil or import it from foreign sources. This new data from EIA provides further evidence that some U.S. refiners – namely those who oppose lifting the U.S. crude oil export ban – are actively choosing foreign oil above U.S. interests. They are choosing increased U.S. dependence on foreign countries rather than sourcing their crude from U.S. companies that employ American workers.

Opponents of lifting the crude oil export ban argue that U.S. crude oil should remain at home in order to help reduce foreign imports. However, several refiners have admitted that their top priority is sourcing oil at the best price for their company – even if it’s from foreign sources:

  • “We buy whatever is the best and is available and the most attractively priced.” – Valero spokesman
  • “The refinery will always pursue the most competitive crude oil from both an economic and quality perspective.” – Monroe Energy spokesman
  • “There’s been times during the year we wanted to maximize domestic crude oil, but about half the time this year, we’ve been importing.” – Valero executive vice president

Unfortunately, domestic oil producers do not have this same ability since the U.S. oil export ban prohibits the free trade of crude oil to our allies and trading partners around the world. When domestic refiners choose to import more oil instead of purchasing domestically produced oil, the domestic oil that is being displaced either goes into storage or wells are shut-in. When wells are shut-in and rigs are idled, jobs are lost and host communities are negatively impacted.

PACE Executive Director George Baker recently explained this discrepancy in the Houston Chronicle: “Like all refiners, they have the ability to purchase crude oil from more than 34 countries in the world and sell their refined product to another 140 countries. That’s the very same principle we’re looking for.”

It’s time to level the playing field for American workers and businesses. It’s time for congress and the Obama Administration to lift the ban on crude oil exports.


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