West Coast Democrats ask for ban on North Slope oil exports

Posted: Friday, March 17, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Some congressional Democrats from the West Coast are proposing that the Clinton administration reinstate the ban on exports of Alaska North Slope crude oil as a way of reducing soaring gasoline prices.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Thursday that the idea is part of the discussion, but might not have enough impact to be worth the bother.

The Democrats made their own political suggestion for a quick fix to rising gasoline prices after a Republican idea faded. Congressional Republicans had proposed suspending a 4.3 cents-per-gallon federal excise tax. That plan would have slashed federal highway spending.

''If we just stopped exports from Alaska, we would reduce prices on the West Coast by more than 4.3 cents a gallon,'' Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio declared at a Capitol press conference.

DeFazio was joined by House Democratic Whip David Bonior of Michigan; Reps. George Miller, Sam Farr and Lois Capps of California, and Reps. Jay Inslee and Brian Baird of Washington state.

Miller is the senior Democrat on the House Resources Committee. He led the opposition in 1995 when the House voted 324-77 to permit exports of oil carried through the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

''Some of the Republicans in Congress now complaining about high gas prices are the very same people who led the charge to allow Alaska oil to be exported,'' Miller said.

''Since Alaska supplies over 40 percent of the oil consumed on the West Coast, suspending exports could provide short-term relief from the supply shortage now affecting our economy and consumers,'' Miller said.

An average of about 60,000 barrels of North Slope crude has been exported daily to Asia as a result of the 1995 law, according to the state Department of Revenue. Export sales in recent months have been more like 50,000 barrels a day, BP Amoco spokesman Tom Koch told the Anchorage Daily News.

BP is the only North Slope producer that sells its crude abroad.

Chuck Logsdon, Alaska's chief oil economist, said the BP exports have raised the price of North Slope crude by about 50 cents a barrel.

Export critics are dreaming if they think banning export sales now will make a dent in gasoline prices, Logsdon said.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Resources Committee and a leading advocate of lifting the ban five years ago, said so little Alaska crude is exported that banning foreign sales now would not affect gasoline prices.

But Miller and others said they think the Alaska crude that now is exported would help replenish deliveries to West Coast refineries and help bring down prices for domestically produced oil in California.

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