NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Top U.S. oil refiner Valero Energy voiced the first major opposition to ending a decades-old ban on crude oil exports on Tuesday, adding to a debate that will likely shape the biggest energy issue of the year.
“It makes more sense to keep crude oil here in the U.S.,” Bill Day, a spokesman for the San Antonio, Texas-based company, said.
He added the current system, which requires a presidential waiver for most oil exports but allows companies to apply for licenses to sell oil to Canada, is “working well.” Valero has received permits to ship crude to its Quebec refinery.
“It has significantly reduced American dependence on foreign oil, kept U.S. refining utilization high, and insulated American consumers from geopolitical shocks,” Day said.
Rising oil production in the United States, now at a 25-year high, has cut domestic crude oil prices, a boon for refiners like Valero who process the cheap crude into gasoline, diesel and other fuels that fetch better value. Those fuels can be freely exported to the global market.
If the ban on oil exports is lifted, refiners will take a hit on their profit margins as they pay more for the oil they process. Oil producers like Exxon Mobil, who support lifting the ban, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to sell their crude to the highest bidder anywhere in the world.
Day’s comments came after Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, unveiled a report that urged lawmakers to review the ban.
“My interest is not to protect the refineries’ bottom line,” Murkowski said on Tuesday. “They are going to have to deal with it within the industry.”
Rival independent refiner Marathon Petroleum Corp does not oppose lifting the crude-oil export ban, although it said the country will have more to gain by exporting refined products to Latin America and Europe.