How would lifting oil-export ban affect gas prices? GAO weighs in

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a new report saying that lifting the nation’s nearly 40-year-old ban on oil exports would reduce gas prices for Americans.

The ban was put in place after the oil shortages of the 1970s. But critics of the ban say the ramped-up production in the U.S. of light sweet crude could lead to a glut, keeping prices artificially low.

As The Wall Street Journal notes, “export advocates note that most of the country’s gasoline prices are derived from global markets and sending out U.S. crude would ultimately lower prices at home.”

The nonpartisan GAO stated that repealing the ban on exports would “likely increase domestic crude oil prices but decrease consumer fuel prices.”

The public might not be convinced. A Reuters-Ipsos poll earlier this month found that Americans are split about 50-50 on whether to repeal the ban. The chief concern is that prices would rise, not fall, if drillers were allowed to export crude to higher-priced foreign markets.

U.S. refiners, which purchase domestic oil at a cheaper cost, have opposed lifting the ban.

The GAO added that lifting the export ban “could pose risks to groundwater quality, increase greenhouse gas emissions and increase the risk of spills from transportation.”