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Saudi Arabia's energy minister speaks during a press conference

Saudi Arabia's Minister of Energy Abdulaziz bin Salman speaks during a press conference after an OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria on October 5, 2022. (Photo: Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images)

US Should Respond to OPEC by Reinstating Oil Export Ban, Says Green Group

"It is no surprise that the international oil cartel is seeking to maintain high prices," said a campaigner with Food & Water Watch. "Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling."

Jake Johnson

The Biden administration and Congress faced new pressure Wednesday to reinstate a ban on U.S. gasoline exports after the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to slash oil production by two million barrels a day to boost prices, a move that drew outrage from the White House and some congressional Democrats.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said in a statement that President Joe Biden is "disappointed" by OPEC's decision and will consider "tools and authorities to reduce OPEC's control over energy prices."

"Corporations are exporting record quantities of gasoline, and making record-setting profits as a result."

On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that "White House officials have asked the U.S. Energy Department to analyze the possible impacts of a ban on exports of gasoline, diesel, and other refined petroleum products, an indication that the controversial idea is gaining traction in some parts of the Biden administration" as gas prices begin to tick back up after months of steady declines.

Mitch Jones, managing director of policy at Food & Water Watch, argued in a statement Wednesday that the Biden administration and Congress should push ahead with an export ban as oil giants that are profiting off global energy market chaos launch a fresh lobbying campaign against the proposal.

"It is no surprise that the international oil cartel is seeking to maintain high prices," Jones said of OPEC. "Political leaders here at home must understand that the solution is not to increase drilling. Corporations are exporting record quantities of gasoline, and making record-setting profits as a result. Their greed hurts working families still grappling with high inflation and rising utility bills."

"It's time to take real action to rein in this outrageous corporate profiteering," Jones added. "That should start with Congress passing a ban on gasoline exports."

The U.S. had a crude oil export ban in place for 40 years before congressional Republicans and then-President Barack Obama lifted the ban in 2015.

An analysis released last December estimated that U.S. crude exports rose nearly 600% in the five years after the ban was repealed.

Food & Water Watch noted Wednesday that "in the first half of this year, the U.S. exported 11% more gasoline than last year as companies sought higher profit margins."

Proponents, including some Democratic lawmakers, argue an export ban would help push U.S. gas prices down, given the crucial role that surging exports have played in driving up costs this year.

Public Citizen observed earlier this year that the 2015 law that lifted the U.S. export ban contains a provision allowing the president to unilaterally "impose export licensing requirements or other restrictions on the export of crude oil from the United States for a period of not more than one year, if the president declares a national emergency."

"Record oil and natural gas exports have realigned the U.S. fossil fuel industry to prioritize maximizing profit for international markets, turning them away from serving the American consumer or providing energy independence," Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's energy program, said in a June statement.

"They cannot be relied upon to deliver affordable energy," Slocum added, "as their calls to expand production will only fuel exports and drive domestic prices higher."

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