Marriage of Convenience? Environmentalists And Oil Refineries Unite To Block Oil Exports

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Environmentalists are teaming up with oil refineries to oppose lifting the oil export ban, in the ultimate political marriage of convenience.

“Exporting American crude would risk the closure of a number of the 140 U.S. oil refineries, leaving thousands of American workers jobless. Refinery jobs are good paying jobs, and support over $1.8 million in value-added per employee. Lifting the ban would not only cost jobs, but it would also hurt the communities that rely on the tax base generated from these wages,” according to an article by The Sierra Club.

Progressive blog ThinkProgress worried that “American oil refineries are expected to take a hit” if the oil export ban is lifted. The article even claims that “domestic refineries need the export ban to stay competitive.”

Actual economists say that exporting oil will provide a huge annual boost to the U.S. economy by $38 billion and reduce the trade deficit by $22 billion. It will also add 300,000 new jobs by 2020.

Presently, selling American crude oil to other countries is illegal, despite the best efforts of House Republicans, who voted to lift the ban in October. The Senate is preparing to lift the ban, but President Barack Obama has threatened to veto any attempt to do so. However, a deal to lift the ban seems imminent.

The Government Accountability Office estimates lifting the export ban will lower gas prices by up to 13 cents per gallon. Changes of just a few cents per gallon can have huge impacts on the economy. U.S. consumers spent $370 billion on gasoline in 2014, meaning a 28 percent price drop is equivalent to a $102 billion tax cut.

American households are expected to save $700 at the pump this year due to low gas prices, according to analysis by the Energy Information Administration. Low prices at the pump are enormously beneficial to poor American households who use the money not spent on gasoline to save more, pay down debt, or buy other goods. Cheap gas also helps poor families who are more vulnerable to energy price increases.

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