| WASHINGTON, Sept 1
WASHINGTON, Sept 1 A senior U.S. Congressman
from Texas has come out in full support of the United States
lifting the 40-year old ban on crude oil exports, putting him at
odds with fellow House Republicans wary of weighing in on the
Rep. Joe Barton, who until now has maintained a relatively
neutral public stance on a topic that has divided Republican
members of the House energy and commerce committee, told Reuters
in a statement that the time was right for the United States to
overhaul its long-standing restrictions on exporting crude oil.
"The shale revolution has changed the energy landscape in
our country. It is time to change our laws to match this new
reality," said Barton, who represents Texas' sixth Congressional
district just southwest of Dallas, several hundred miles from
the burgeoning oil patches of the Eagle Ford and Permian.
"I'm in favor of overturning the ban on crude oil exports."
Barton chairs the energy task force of the Republican Study
Committee, which will continue to debate the ban and issue
It is the most definitive statement that the former chairman
of the House energy committee has made outside of private
meetings on the subject, said Sean Brown, Barton's press
Barton is "happy to discuss the issue" with House colleagues
and some in the business community who may disagree, Brown said.
The outspoken lawmaker, in office since 1985, joins other
powerful politicians including Senate energy and natural
resources committee chair Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and ranking
member Lisa Murkowski from Alaska in backing definitive action
on exports. They want to move beyond the incremental measures
that are already allowing a growing trickle of shale oil to find
new markets, such as South Korea and the Netherlands.
Although several research reports have found that exporting
the glut of shale oil would ultimately lower U.S. and global
fuel prices, rather than raise them, U.S. public opinion remains
divided on the issue.
Meanwhile some environmentalists are beginning to rally
against overseas sales because they fear it will encourage even
ON THE FENCE
Barton's previous public comments on the issue were more
"I can debate either side of that," he said at an event in
Barton said there was a strong economic argument to lift the
export ban, but such a decision might roil environmentalists,
provoking another political fight in a divided Congress.
Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican who succeeded Barton
as the energy committee chair, has not yet taken a position on
"The committee is still studying the issue. We will continue
to conduct analysis the remainder of the year and into next
Congress," committee spokeswoman Charlotte Baker said.
With mid-term elections looming, some lawmakers want to
avoid discussing crude exports altogether as it may raise fears
among voters that a policy change would drive up gasoline
Some lawmakers in Texas and on the east coast are at odds
with others because oil refiners in their districts have
benefited from the crude oil ban and oppose a policy change.
In March, four U.S. oil refiners including Alon USA Energy
and PBF Energy formed anti-export group
Consumers and Refiners United for Domestic Energy, or CRUDE, a
lobby with the goal of preventing a hasty reversal of the ban.
Barton's statement is significant because some prominent
Republicans have not taken a firm stance on the issue yet, said
Kevin Book, an analyst with Clear View Energy Partners.
"The reason he probably hasn't been more vocal is because
the rank and file is terrified," he said.
But Barton has little to lose by backing crude exports,
according to Book, since his district is home mainly to oil
(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; edited by Jonathan Leff and
Jessica Resnick-Ault and Tomasz Janowski)