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U.S. Oil Glut Spurs Talk In Congress Of Oil Exports … Did Someone Say Something About Trains?

Nov. 8, 2013 | KUOW
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Ashley Ahearn


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  • An oil train in Oakland, Calif. The Northwest's current and proposed train-to-vessel terminals are being promoted as ways to get more oil from North Dakota to West Coast refineries. But could that change in the future? credit: Flickr
An oil train in Oakland, Calif. The Northwest's current and proposed train-to-vessel terminals are being promoted as ways to get more oil from North Dakota to West Coast refineries. But could that change in the future? | credit: Flickr | rollover image for more

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SEATTLE — There are now two refineries in Washington processing Bakken oil, with proposals underway to receive oil by rail at eight other sites in Washington and Oregon.

In my coverage of this I’ve been repeatedly told, by Western States Petroleum Association and others, that the oil coming into Washington is eventually bound for “West Coast refineries.” And that’s true … right now.

Bloomberg News is reporting that Congress will likely consider loosening restrictions on U.S. oil exports.

“Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, believes the debate on oil exports will happen “sooner rather than later,” according to Robert Dillon, a spokesman for the Alaska lawmaker.

“It’s something we are looking at,” Dillon said.

Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. He’s been critical of the fossil fuel industry and has tackled issues of coal royalties in his time on the committee. Keith Chu, his spokesman, told Bloomberg that Wyden expects the debate to happen soon, but that he “would need to see benefits to consumers before supporting such a move.”

Since the 1970s only a small amount of oil has been allowed to be exported every year, but that volume has been expanding.

From Bloomberg: “From 2003 to 2012, the U.S. exported an average of 35,000 barrels a day of crude oil, 98 percent of which went to Canada. Exports have increased recently, to 67,000 barrels in 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration, which tracks and analyzes U.S. energy data.”

And here’s a helpful visual sum-up of the EIA data from Sightline:

If those exports are deemed “consistent with the national interest” the U.S. Commerce Department grants producers permits to export.

If the American Petroleum Institute has its way, and can use global trade rules to argue for natural gas and oil exports, there could be more exports in the future.

— Ashley Ahearn

© 2013 KUOW
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