Last month, the American Petroleum Institute (API) released a report advocating for an end to the U.S. ban on crude oil exports. Nestled among the API’s rosy claims of new jobs and low gas prices (which are strongly refuted by this report from the Center for American Progress) was one point that we actually agree with: lifting the crude export ban would increase U.S. oil production by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) by 2020.
API’s estimate matches up closely with Oil Change International’s recent assessment of the potential climate impacts of lifting the crude export ban, also released last month. In our analysis, we assumed that lifting the ban would result in a $10 per barrel increase in U.S. oil prices, and estimated the average domestic oil production increase that would be triggered as a result (check out the report for a full explanation of the methodology).
OCI’s analysis estimates an average projected U.S. oil production increase of more than 476,000 bpd by 2020, very similar to the API estimate of 500,000 bpd. What the API neglects to mention is how much CO2 would be released into the atmosphere by burning all this additional oil, accelerating the already dangerous pace of climate change. This is not a surprising omission, given the recent assertion by Exxon Mobil, one of the API’s largest members, that effective climate policies will never be enacted and are thus not factored into its business model.
OCI’s 476,000 bpd estimate would release the equivalent annual CO2 emissions of more than 22 coal plants; API’s higher estimate would mean even greater climate consequences, with CO2 emissions equal to more than 23 coal plants. (OCI’s full analysis for the 2015-2050 period found that the CO2 impacts of lifting the export ban would equal lifetime emissions from 42 coal plants; the API analysis only goes through 2020).
The aim of the new API report is clear. Sensing the opportunity for ever higher profits for its Big Oil membership, the API is among several industry groups and oil corporations pressuring the Obama Administration to lift the export ban and allow them to sell their oil at higher global market prices.
In the midst of President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy, the ban on crude oil exports is one of the few policies in place that effectively limits the oil and gas extraction and protects our climate. The Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress must take a stand against Big Oil and resolve to leave the crude oil export ban intact.