Barton: Time to lift crude export ban

WASHINGTON _ Rep. Joe Barton is now convinced: U.S. oil producers should be able to freely sell their crude overseas.

“I’m in favor of overturning the ban on crude oil exports,” Barton said in a statement first reported by Reuters, following a visit this month to South Korea.

“The shale revolution has changed the energy landscape in our country,” Barton said, adding: “It is time to change our laws to match this new reality.”

The remarks suggest the Republican’s views have evolved since February, when he was far more equivocal.

At the time, Barton, R-Ennis, questioned the wisdom of a big fight over dismantling 39-year-old restrictions on exporting U.S. crude.

“A lot of environmentalists are going to fight us if we try to end that ban,” Barton said during a panel discussion on energy policy. “Is it really worth having that fight?”

At the time, Barton allowed that “from a pure economic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to have an export ban (so) let’s eliminate it.” But he also noted that the ban on most exports of raw, unprocessed oil is “not a bad strategic position.”

Barton has amassed more research on the subject in his role leading the Republican Study Committee’s energy task force, as more countries join oil companies in pushing U.S. politicians and the Obama administration to lift the export ban.

The federal government is also studying the issue. The government’s Energy Information Administration will soon issue a report analyzing how the price of oil around the globe affects gasoline costs inside the United States. The document is expected to provide additional ammunition to export advocates, who have argued that the existing ban is a relic of the OPEC oil embargo that does not mesh with today’s booming domestic crude production.

Many lawmakers have been reluctant to address the issue head on — at least ahead of the Nov. 4 elections. An exception is Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has been making the case for crude exports with white papers and speeches.