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Think tank with Obama ties calls for removal of LNG, crude export restrictions

Washington (Platts)--6 Feb 2014 644 pm EST/2344 GMT


A US think tank with deep ties to the Obama administration on Thursday called for the removal of restrictions on US exports of crude oil and liquefied natural gas as part of a grander US security policy.

The Center for New American Security, which is staffed by a number of former Obama appointees, issued a report Thursday arguing that the revolution in unconventional energy extraction has boosted US oil and natural gas production to the point where energy can be a larger tool in promoting US interests.

The CNAS report, released in Washington, called on lawmakers to "embrace pro-manufacturing policies, relatively unencumbered energy exports and relatively free trade in energy."

Acknowledging that free trade in energy may raise prices for US consumers, CNAS maintained that the benefits outweigh the costs.

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"This may involve some price [rises], particularly as a result of seasonal demand trends, but will smooth refining mismatches in the US market, diminish infrastructure bottlenecks and give producers greater access to competitive global markets," the report, authored by the think tank's Unconventional Energy and National Security Task Force, said.

"Relatively broad support already exists for natural gas exports," CNAS said, "although federal authorities can play an important role in facilitating easier permitting for the US LNG sector."

"Most political leaders are far from ready to embrace oil exports," the report noted.

"However, they would do well to seriously consider the idea. Exporting oil would have a limited impact on US consumers because oil and refined product prices are set on a global" basis, CNAS said.

Adding the US to the list of exporting countries reduces the ability of producers such as Russia or OPEC to increase energy prices, it said.

In addition to such Democratic Party stalwarts such as former US Senator John Warner and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the task force included representatives from the US state and defense departments, the International Energy Agency, and several energy companies.

The abundance of gas and oil from shale formations will help stabilize global markets, the task force said, while at the same time adding diplomatic tools for the US to use to achieve policy aims and support allies in a crisis.

With its growing domestic oil and gas production, the US can open its strategic reserves to other countries to cushion them from price shocks and international turmoil, the task force suggested. It called for a review of the US strategic oil reserve program with a look towards bringing major consuming countries in Asia and Europe under its umbrella.

--Bill Holland, bill.holland@platts.com
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@platts.com

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