Moniz says oil export ban, strategic reserve could merit 'new analysis'

NEW YORK -- Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz nudged open the door on ending the U.S. ban on oil exports yesterday, calling the policy a matter that merits fresh analysis.

In remarks delivered here during a Platts forum on global energy, Moniz emphasized that he was not stating a position in favor of allowing exports. But he did indicate an openness to looking at it.

Noting that the question is out of his purview as a Commerce Department issue, Moniz nevertheless called restrictions on oil exports a relic of 1970s energy policy that could be in need of an update.

"There are lots of issues in the energy space that deserve some new analysis," he said, "in the context of an energy world that looks nothing like the 1970s."

Asked to clarify during a news conference, Moniz said there are any number of policies crafted in the 1970s -- such as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve -- that might be re-examined in light of the United States' newfound position as a more robust producer of oil and natural gas.


"That law, like the Department of Energy, was child of the 1970s," he said of restrictions on oil imports imposed to save fuel during the Arab oil embargo.

On SPR, Moniz said "a relook at how the reserve is managed could be relevant."

He added that "even how DOE is internally structured, one could look at it."

Moniz then clarified that he was not stating an Obama administration position, explaining that DOE's role if such a shift occurred would be to provide technical analysis.

"It's not our responsibility," he told reporters, during a back and forth. "I will not make a public interest statement when that's the responsibility of a different agency."

Some outside of government channels have recently been more direct on the topic. Blake Clayton, an adjunct fellow for energy at the Council on Foreign Relations, recently called on the administration to dump the prohibition.

"Removing all proscriptions on crude oil exports, except in extraordinary circumstances, will strengthen the U.S. economy and promote the efficient development of the country's energy sector," he wrote in a blog post.

Exxon Mobil Corp. this week called for the same shift. The Irving, Texas-based oil major told a reporter from The Wall Street Journal that the time has come to "rethink the regulatory scheme and the statutory scheme on the books."

Moniz was also pressed on the administration's Keystone XL pipeline position during the conference, held in midtown Manhattan. He pushed back on the pipeline, noting that the presidential permit is in the hands of the State Department.

"That's very simple: We don't have one," he said of DOE's stance on KXL. "Our job ... is to provide technical assistance in analyzing the markets."

He added, about the pipeline: "We do not make any judgment about national interest."

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