Why the Oil Export Ban Must Stay

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USA Today

Why the Oil Export Ban Must Stay

Don’t double down on dirty fuels from the 19th century

Lifting our ban on oil would mean that drilling companies "would resort to ever riskier sources—while demanding access to our nation’s most beautiful and vulnerable environments, including our coastlines, our public lands and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." (Photo: Geof Wilson/flickr/cc)

It’s easy to understand why the American oil industry would like to see the ban on crude oil exports lifted: Foreign markets would be a new source of profits while also helping to raise the price of oil domestically. The consequences for the environment and for America’s growing clean-energy economy, however, would be disastrous.

The increased demand for more drilling that would result from exports means that oil companies would resort to ever riskier sources — while demanding access to our nation’s most beautiful and vulnerable environments, including our coastlines, our public lands and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At the same time, we would face the risk of even more spills and deadly explosions from the transport of crude oil, whether by pipeline or by oil trains that run through our communities.

At the very moment when the world is reaching consensus that we must rein in climate-polluting fossil fuel emissions, lifting the ban on exports would send a signal that America is ready to double down on dirty, 19th century fuels — when we should instead be investing more in the clean and renewable energy sources that are our future and leaving dirty sources in the ground as much as possible.

Lifting of the crude oil export ban would not only threaten our environment and climate, though; it would also hurt our workforce, and it’s not just the job-creating renewable energy workforce that would be affected. American refinery workers are our first and last line of defense for community safety in the face of an industry that all too often prioritizes profits over people. Instead of exporting pollution and good jobs to other countries, the U.S should concentrate on leading the world in exporting clean-energy technologies.

Congress should listen to the American people rather than its friends in the oil industry and leave the crude oil export ban in place.

Michael Brune

Michael Brune is the executive director of The Sierra Club. His book Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal was published by Sierra Club Books in September 2008.

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