John Cornyn: For movement on crude oil exports, wait until next year

U.S. Senator John Cornyn speaks to the audience at the GOP election night party in Austin on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)
U.S. Senator John Cornyn speaks to the audience at the GOP election night party in Austin on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)

By Jennifer Reiley

WASHINGTON — Congressional action to unleash U.S. oil and gas exports likely won’t see significant progress until early 2016, according to Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.

Cornyn spoke Thursday to executives of the Center for Strategic and International Studies as part of a forum on energy and national security, which Cornyn said are “intrinsically linked.”

Cornyn said the fall legislative session will likely be bogged down with spending and debt ceiling debates, but there are legislative efforts in the works to expand natural gas exports and lift a ban on shipping crude oil overseas. Both pieces of legislation have bi-partisan support, particularly in the congressional delegation from Houston.

“The United States must consider energy as a major part of a multi-faceted strategy to increase our security by enabling a stable energy supply to our friends and allies,” Cornyn said. “Today there are several legislative efforts to promote U.S. exports for our vast energy supplies for allies and partners around the world.”

Supporters of energy diversification have advocated for an increase in American energy exports on the global market.

“The consensus was we were depending way too much on imported energy from the Middle East and other countries that created a national security concern for us here at home,” Cornyn said. “The argument was pretty simple, we should diversify our energy access while at the same time tap into the vast resources we have here in America.”

The advantages of promoting American energy, Cornyn said, range from economic growth in the United States to an “instrument of national power” for national security.

Last year, the United States imported 9 million barrels per day of petroleum. Cornyn said the country consumed the lowest level of imported petroleum in 30 years. Today, the United States is a top producer of petroleum products, which includes crude oil and liquid natural gas. Cornyn said expanding America’s energy would have significant advantages, but current energy policies “stifled our economy and negatively impacted our friends abroad.”

“I’m not optimistic to be honest that this will be a priority for the president or the administration,” Cornyn said, in a reference to President Barack Obama. “The put their commitment to climate change above everything else.”

Security concerns for Cornyn focus on two countries – Russia and Iran. It is estimated that many European countries including American allies receive more than 50 percent of their oil from Russia.

“This is dangerous because lack of energy diversification means that Russia has our European allies over a barrel,” Cornyn said.

Without other options for energy resources, Cornyn said European allies “don’t have the option right now to make decisions independent of Russia’s long and ominous shadow.”

Cornyn also criticized the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, including concerns that it would ease sanctions on Iranian oil and natural gas exports.

“While the administration has eased sanctions against Iran, unfortunately so far it’s done nothing to ease sanctions on our own domestic energy producers here at home,” Cornyn said.

By making American energy available to the global market, Cornyn said leaders can create alternatives to countering enemies outside of military forces.

“Actually we have more tools in the toolbox than just those,” Cornyn said. “We don’t automatically think about how we can use America’s vast energy resources to counter our enemies and weakening their strategic hand.”

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