Climate justice advocates warn that lifting the decades-old U.S. oil export ban—an outcome that appears imminent as a result of Republican maneuvering and Democratic capitulation in Congress—would be antithetical to the goals of the brand-new Paris Agreement aimed at reining in global emissions.
News outlets reported Monday afternoon that a provision to end the ban, instituted during energy shortages of the 1970s, is almost certain to be tucked into the omnibus year-end spending bill needed to keep the government running.
According to ABC News:
In return for lifting the 4-decade-old ban, Democrats were seeking various environmental concessions, including permanently extending tax credits for solar and wind energy production and reviving an environmental conservation fund. Democrats also were trying to block GOP efforts to roll back Obama administration environmental regulations, with Democratic lawmakers who traveled to the Paris climate talks returning energized to fight harder on such issues.
— David Turnbull (@david_turnbull) December 14, 2015
As Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote in a blog post last week:
Ending the oil export ban is a poor idea on many grounds: Unions oppose it because it will cost refinery jobs, conservationists oppose it because it will lead to more drilling in sensitive areas and increased pollution in communities of color. It makes a mockery of the idea that we're actually interested in "energy independence." We'd get 4,500 more rail cars a day full of explosive oil. It's such bad policy that 69 percent of Americans, across both parties, oppose lifting the ban.
And if it's bad policy, it's even worse timing. Right at the very moment when we desperately need to be reducing emissions and investing in clean energy solutions -- right when President Obama in his Paris speech and his Keystone XL rejection has called for leaving carbon underground -- lifting the crude oil export ban would do the exact opposite: add 3.3 million barrels of extra oil production per day between now and 2035. That's more than 515 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year, the equivalent of the annual emissions from 108 million passenger vehicles or 135 coal-fired power plants.
In keeping with widespread public opposition to repealing the ban, U.S. President Barack Obama previously vowed to veto standalone legislation that did so. However, the White House has stopped short of saying Obama would veto a spending bill that includes lifting the ban.
A vote is expected later this week.