| WASHINGTON, March 11
WASHINGTON, March 11 Four U.S. oil refiners,
trying to counter growing calls to lift the nation's ban on most
crude oil exports, have launched the first major lobbying effort
to keep abundant U.S. oil supplies from being sold overseas.
Rising U.S. shale oil production has opened the door to a
possible revision of the decades-old policy restricting most
exports of unrefined petroleum.
Various groups and lawmakers favoring exports have been fast
out of the gate, seizing on a comment by U.S. Energy Secretary
Ernest Moniz in December that it might be time to take another
look at the law.
Philip Rinaldi, chief executive of Philadelphia Energy
Solutions, said the anti-export group Consumers and Refiners
United for Domestic Energy, or CRUDE, was formed with the goal
of preventing a hasty reversal of policy.
Abruptly allowing exports after a few years of rising
production, but decades of concerns about energy security, would
be "rash," Rinaldi told Reuters on Tuesday.
"What's the rush? You've waited 40 years. Why not take time
to kind of understand the dynamics of the market," he said.
CRUDE's goal runs counter to the message from major oil and
gas lobbies such as the American Petroleum Institute and the
American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers.
API is dominated by crude oil producers, but Rinaldi said
CRUDE was founded to speak specifically to the needs of refiners
and the users of crude oil products.
PES, based in Philadelphia, is joined in the coalition by
Monroe Energy of Trainer, Pennsylvania; PBF Energy Inc
of Parsipanny, New Jersey; and Alon USA Energy Inc of
Certain market and policy conditions need to be met before
the coalition could support oil exports, Rinaldi said.
The group has hired lobbyists from the firm Peck Madigan
Jones to push its views in Washington, disclosure forms show.
Established after the 1970s Arab oil embargo, the export ban
has divided oil producers, who support its repeal, and some
refiners, who have benefited from being able to buy plentiful
and relatively cheap U.S. crude and then exporting the
value-added refined products.
While U.S. law prohibits the export of crude oil, overseas
sales of petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel are
Oil drillers argue that they face a growing disconnect
between production of light sweet crude from shale formations in
the United States, and capacity constraints among refiners on
the U.S. Gulf, whose equipment is more suited to heavier crudes.
But Rinaldi said the market is not currently saturated,
noting that the United States still imports millions of barrels
of oil per day and that crude producers are reluctant to enter
into long-term contracts that lock in prices for refiners.
These are "all signs that the market is nowhere near
glutted, which is the point when you think about opening up an
export market," Rinaldi told Reuters.
The group's other major concern would be a relaxation or
lifting of the crude oil export ban while the nearly century-old
shipping statute, the Jones Act, remains in place.
The Jones Act limits domestic shipping to U.S.-flagged
vessels. Leaving the law intact would put U.S. refiners at a
severe disadvantage to foreign companies if the export
restrictions were suddenly removed, Rinaldi said.
He said an argument advanced by export backers that
exporting crude from the United States and importing refined oil
would mean cheaper gasoline at the pump is unlikely to resonate
"I don't think John Q. Public thinks that has any chance of
making gasoline cheaper," Rinaldi said.