Democratic senator says he’s open to oil exports

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., joins members of crowd to listen to former President Bill Clinton during an appearance in Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., joins members of crowd to listen to former President Bill Clinton during an appearance in Colorado. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

WASHINGTON — Another Senate Democrat has signaled his support for exporting U.S. oil — as long as it is part of a broader clean energy plan.

The declaration from Sen. Michael Bennet came during the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit, when the Coloradan was asked if he backed oil exports.

“In the context of being able to move us to a more secure energy environment in the United States (and) a cleaner energy environment in the United States, yes,” Bennet said.

A spokesman for Bennet said the senator believes a move to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude exports “would have to be part of a more comprehensive plan that includes steps to address climate change and give the country and the world a more sustainable energy future.”

Bennet’s comments make him the latest Senate Democrat to suggest he is open to oil exports — even if the support is predicated on other changes.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid recently said there was room for a “compromise” on the issue. “We should sit down and try to work something out with the people who are so focused on exporting it and those people who are so focused on not exporting it and come up with a deal,” Reid told Politico.

And Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a longtime oil export critic, highlighted the possibility of strategically selling U.S. crude abroad to bolster a new round of nuclear negotiations with Iran.

To some oil export advocates, the declarations are a sign of building momentum — that a change in policy is viewed as practically inevitable by some lawmakers who want to extract some concessions in exchange for a yes vote.

Other Democrats have outlined the contours of a possible deal on exports. For instance, in April, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, floated some partial lifting of the ban along with support for alternative energy and safeguards for refiners who might end up paying more for the raw crude they process.

But some of the ideas that have been offered up — such as a permanent extension of a tax credit used to support wind power — could turn off as many senators as it lures to an oil export measure. Another approaching — imposing a fee per oil barrel produced to support highway investments — is viewed as delivering a second blow to refiners and a tax that would be passed on to consumers.

SHOW MORE