The Hill | Wednesday, November 11, 2015 | Senator Mark Begich
In April 1996 President Bill Clinton ended a 23-year-old ban on exporting Alaska North Slope crude oil that was put in place when the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was built in the 1970s. At the time the ban was enacted, America believed we needed to hoard as much of our petroleum resources as possible. Even as early as 1996, however, it was clear to economists and policymakers that America is more secure and prosperous when we engage in robust energy trade with allies and trading partners.
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Three years after Clinton began allowing Alaskan oil exports, the Government Accountability Office issued a comprehensive report examining the effects of removing the ban. Among the findings were that North Slope oil production would increase for years to come: “new oil fields developed in Alaska since the ban was lifted are expected to increase Alaskan North Slope oil production by an average of 115,000 barrels per day for the next two decades.” The report also found that although prices for crude oil paid by West Coast refiners increased by about $1 per barrel, “no observed increases occurred in the prices of three important petroleum products used by consumers on the West Coast - gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.” In other words, lifting the ban generated greater oil production, while not increasing consumer prices.
What was true for Alaska in the 1990s is equally true today for crude oil produced from our country’s prolific shale formations. Removing the United States’ outdated ban on crude oil exports will help grow our economy, lower gasoline prices at the pump, create and protect jobs, and enhance our national security by providing allies with a stable source of energy. The experience of Alaska, and of the primary consumers of its crude oil on the West Coast, is a noteworthy case study for the rest of America.
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Senator Mark Begich (D) represented Alaska in the Senate from 2009 to 2015. He is now the president and CEO of Northern Compass Group, a consulting firm located in Anchorage, Alaska.