- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2015

President Obama is missing a key opportunity to grow the U.S. economy and aid key European allies by failing to lift a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, former Defense Secretary William Cohen said Wednesday.

In a piece for Time magazine, Mr. Cohen, who led the Pentagon during the final four years of President Clinton’s tenure, said the global energy landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and America must take advantage.

“A series of policies and laws in the 1970s banned exports of U.S. crude oil with only limited exceptions. This ban is a relic from an age of energy scarcity and should be adjusted to reflect present realities. By working with Congress, and via executive order, the president can start taking steps today to boost U.S. exports,” Mr. Cohen said. “For the first time in a half century, President Obama has the opportunity to re-write the energy balance of power in our favor and solidify his legacy on trade. President Obama is the only U.S. president in decades who has had the tool of energy abundance at his disposal; he should use it.”

The ban is a leftover policy from the 1970s, when domestic fuel shortages led to a prohibition on all exports of crude oil. But the situation is much different today, with the U.S. now the world’s No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas.

The administration slowly has embraced the idea of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG), and the Energy Department has given final approval to at least six LNG export projects.

But the crude oil ban remains on the books, and the White House has offered no indication it intends to revise its policy.

Mr. Cohen argues reversing the ban — and expediting the approval of LNG export projects — not only would carry economic benefits for the U.S. but also would allow allies to ween themselves off of fuel from Russia and other hostile nations.

“Working with our allies and partners, a joint effort to reduce Europe’s vulnerability to Russian energy coercion would be an important legacy for President Obama and send a signal to President Vladimir Putin that as long as he chooses to use energy as a weapon, the West will defend itself,” he wrote. “While it will take years to build the necessary infrastructure to receive more LNG, enhance transport pipelines, and otherwise increase Europe’s energy resilience, there is no better time to start than now.”

There is bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for ending the oil export ban. The Senate has begun to move legislation that would open the door for U.S. oil exports.

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