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Heidi H.
Democrat ND

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  • Oil Export Ban

    by Senator Heidi Heitkamp

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    HEITKAMP. Mr. President, we rise today to talk about an issue we started talking about a year ago; that is, the oil export ban. What we were going to do is not only educate the public about this 40-year-old ban but also educate those colleagues in our caucus who do not have the level of experience that we have with the oil industry. I can tell you that it has been a journey.

    I want to make this point because I always make this point when I talk about it: Fundamentally ignore all the other policy arguments. There is absolutely no reason in the world to restrict the export of a commodity that we produce in this country. Commodities traditionally trade on a global market. If we are not going to distort the market, they need to find their market. This is a 40-year-old ban that didn't make sense when they did it, and it made even less sense in an environment where States such as North Dakota were on the path to produce over 2 million barrels a day of light sweet crude from our shale formations.

    At the end of the day, when we look at the effort and we look at the analysis, occasionally a good argument wins the day. I think that is what we are seeing as we are on the verge of this Congress--signed by the President--lifting a 40-year-old ban on the exportation of crude oil that is produced in this country.

    I wish to make a couple of quick points about it on a policy matter.

    First, many people say: Well, wouldn't that jeopardize our energy independence? Closing off the market and making sure our commodities can't find a market encourages investment in other places than the United States of America, so it is counterintuitive.

    They say: Wouldn't this actually raise our gasoline prices? We had study after study that concluded one simple thing: Either it would have no effect or it would have a downward effect since gasoline prices were measured against Brent, which is the international pricing benchmark. When we look at what is good for consumers, what is good for jobs in States such as North Dakota and New Mexico, what is good for national security, and what is good for our allies--I spent a lot of time last year talking to people from the EU and talking to people in Eastern Europe about the significance of energy security and knowing that even though they didn't have a source of energy, they could buy energy from a country such as the United States of America.

    I frequently referred to our oil as ``democracy oil.'' It is not oil produced by countries that we are at odds with, that we disagree with; this is oil that is absolutely an opportunity to use that soft power, to use that ability to export. That idea was shared not only by foreign policy experts from conservative think tanks but many well-recognized Democratic foreign policy experts. We are at the point of actually getting this done, and that is the good news.

    We also know that frequently in the Congress a good idea doesn't happen in isolation; it happens when we are willing to sit down and go to negotiations. That is where my great friend from New Mexico came in, taking a look at whether there was an opportunity to actually get a deal done and what we could do to make this actually happen. So we partnered up pretty early in making the pitch together.

    I wish to ask my friend Senator Heinrich, would you please talk about the piece of this deal that supports the development of renewables and what that means for your State, which is also an oil-producing State, and what that means for jobs not only in a State such as mine, which has a large manufacturing facility that manufactures blades--plus, we think we are the Saudi Arabia of wind. I know there are probably 20 States that say that. In North Dakota, it is true. I am sure the Presiding Officer would agree that we are, in fact, the Saudi Arabia of wind.

    I ask Senator Heinrich, what does this mean for you in terms of renewables?

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