Lifting the U.S. ban on oil exports would bolster energy security in Europe by allowing countries to find alternative sources, the Czech Republic ambassador to the United States told lawmakers considering a bill to do away with the trade restriction.
"The larger the number of stable democracies among the world's exporters, the more robust the energy security of the Czech Republic and the European Union will be," Petr Gandalovic, the ambassador told the panel the House subcommittee on Energy and Power on Thursday.
The country has worked to reduce its dependence on oil and gas from Russia, the top energy supplier to many Eastern European countries. A recently built oil pipeline connects the Czech Republic to the Italian port of Trieste via Germany.
The House panel was considering a bill sponsored by Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, to lift the ban Congress passed in 1975 after the Arab oil embargo spurred fears of oil shortages. The measure has 75 cosponsors in the 435-member chamber. Many lawmakers have been hesitant to support the bill, worried they could be blamed if exports of crude are linked to any subsequent rise in U.S. gasoline prices.
Many lawmakers remain worried about fuel prices despite reports from Columbia University
, think tanks including the Brookings Institution
, and government agencies that say lifting the export ban would likely push gasoline prices down slightly, because it would boost crude supplies into global markets.
The General Accountability Office, or GAO, summarized the reports in a study this week, saying U.S. fuel prices could fall 1.5 cents to 13 cents per gallon, if the trade restriction was lifted. The report can be seen at: http://1.usa.gov/1KQ1O82.
Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat from Illinois, said at the hearing the ban "may in fact be outdated," but stopped short of saying he favored Barton's bill. One option could be to target crude exports to certain regions to maximize U.S. diplomacy efforts, he said. Rush is working on a bill that would allow exports of U.S. energy resources to Cuba.
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska
who heads the Senate Energy Committee, has also introduced a bill to lift the ban. The bill has 14 cosponsors in the 100-member chamber.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)