Cornyn urges more U.S. energy exports, limiting role of Russia and Iran

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Friday that the United States needs to increase exports of oil and natural gas to its allies in Asia and Europe, reducing the influence abroad of countries including Russia and Iran.

“Countries like Russia are major suppliers to NATO countries. They can easily use their control of energy resources to hold our partners over a barrel,” the Republican Majority Whip from Texas said at the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston. “We can no longer keep energy policy in its own distinct silo. We have to understand energy security is intrinsically linked to our overall security.”

Those comments come as the United States has ended a decades long ban on oil exports. Earlier this week, the first shipment of U.S. liquefied natural gas left Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, bound for Brazil.

Now that sanctions against Iran have lifted, analysts are predicting up to 1 million barrels a day of new crude production will come onto the world market. Russia is the world’s second largest natural gas supplier and the third largest oil supplier, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Cornyn said he wants to see the federal government ease regulations on oil and gas drilling. He cited a rule under review at the Office of Management and Budget, which would tighten offshore drilling standards and was a response to BP’s Deepwater Horizon accident.

“We’ve made some progress on this by lifting the crude export ban, we can offer our friends the option they’ve been asking for, to diversify their energy supply,” he said.

The Senate is considering a bill to update U.S. energy policy for the first time in years, including a provision expediting applications for liquefied natural gas permits. But that legislation has gotten caught up in the debate over what support the federal government should provide in Flint, Mich., where regulators have discovered widespread lead contamination in the city’s water system.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska and chairwoman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said she was working with Democrats on legislation addressing aging water infrastructure around the country and hopes that will get the energy bill moving again.

“We hopefully have an agreement that will allow for a vote,” she said in Houston.

Murkowski said she hopes Senate will begin addressing the energy modernization bill as early as next week

Both senators had strong words for Democrats including Hillary Clinton, who have expressed support for a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“People turn on their lights and start their cars and don’t really known what goes into producing that,” Cornyn said. “The United States has been blessed with enoromous natural resources, so the idea of keeping it in the ground is misguided.”