(Adds quotes from Shell CEO van Beurden, Commerce Secretary
NEW YORK, Sept 2 U.S. policymakers should
gradually lift the country's decades-old ban on crude oil
exports because allowing the shipments would make the global
energy system and fuel prices more stable, the head of Royal
Dutch Shell Plc said on Tuesday.
"Policymakers here in the United States should embrace a
truly liberalized, diverse and global energy market," Shell
Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden told an energy
conference at Columbia University in New York.
U.S. oil and natural gas exports "would reinforce the
long-term future of North American energy production,"
significantly improve the U.S. balance of trade, and "help to
make the global energy system much more stable," he said.
The United States has banned most crude exports since the
Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. But pressure on the Obama
administration and on Congress to overturn the restriction has
risen amid the domestic shale energy boom of the last several
years. The United States is soon expected surpass Saudi Arabia
and Russia to become the world's top oil producer.
The Commerce Department in March allowed two companies,
Enterprise Product Partners and Pioneer Natural
Resources, to export an ultra light form of oil called
condensate. The ruling became public in June.
But since then at least three applications for more
condensate exports have been put on hold.
Meanwhile, Washington has approved several applications to
export natural gas, with the first shipments expected next year.
In his first major public speech since becoming CEO of the
energy firm in January, van Beurden said that gradually lifting
the ban would be good for U.S. fuel consumers because it would
allow the country's oil production to keep growing and to keep
oil flowing to global refiners. That should keep fuel prices
from spiking, he said.
"I don't think it would be sensible to argue for an
immediate opening overnight, but a systematic and gradual
opening up of the export ban would be a sensible thing to do,"
Anglo-Dutch Shell is the second-largest Western energy
company after Exxon Mobil Corp.
Congress is not expected to overturn the crude export ban
any time soon. Many lawmakers are concerned that by doing so
they could be blamed if gasoline prices rose, even if a price
move was caused by other factors.
The Obama administration could take other steps, though,
such as allowing crude oil swaps. But there are no indications
of that happening soon either.
"At this point our policy regarding crude oil exports
remains as is," Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said on a
teleconference with journalists on Tuesday.
Van Beurden said the U.S. shale revolution was a long time
in the making. Shale resources will also develop in Argentina,
China and Algeria, but it will take time, he added.
(Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York and Timothy
Gardner in Washington; Additional reporting by Krista Hughes;
Editing by Ros Krasny, David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)