Some 77 percent of respondents support export restrictions if that
will help them save at the pump, showing how oil producers have
failed to gain popular support to end a decades-old export ban. Only
69 percent thought so in a similar poll in November.
A majority of respondents polled in March — 71 percent — opposed oil
exports if they raise the price of gasoline, up from 67 percent in
November. The country remains evenly divided over crude oil exports
when they are not linked to gasoline prices.
Major oil producers such as ExxonMobil and Chevron argue that export
restrictions, in place since the 1970s, will depress the price of
U.S. oil and crimp output from new oil fields in North Dakota and
Texas, now at a 26-year high. Oil refiners, on the other hand, say
exports will dry up cheap supplies and raise gasoline prices.
Earlier this month, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the oil
industry needs to do a better job making its case in support of
exports, especially since the nation relies on imports of foreign
oil to this day.
To view results of the Reuters/Ipsos poll, click:
With voters still fretting over the price of gasoline, Congress is
unlikely to push for policy change before the midterm elections in
November, experts said.
"People may not know how much they're paying for electricity but
gasoline prices are displayed in 3-feet high letters. These prices
are sensitive signals in the economy," says Jason Bordoff, director
of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a
senior White House energy advisor until late 2012.
"As a society, and as policymakers, people are trying to understand
what the impacts (of exports) will be," he added.
The latest results were taken from a Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,345
Americans between Mar 15-19. The credibility interval, a measure of
precision, is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
It is unclear what effect oil exports would have on gasoline prices.
But some analysts speculated that they could in fact make gasoline
[to top of second column]
The price of U.S. gasoline is set in a global market because the
United States already exports nearly 5 percent of the gasoline it
produces, a figure that is expected to rise in the coming years,
That is likely why the price of gasoline, adjusted for inflation,
hovered near $3.35 a gallon in February, despite the explosive
growth in the nation's oil production, some experts said.
U.S. exports would add to global supplies and lower the price of
international oil benchmark Brent, some analysts argue. That may in
turn result in lower gasoline prices across America.
"We believe that delivering U.S. oil into the global market could
have the effect of depressing Brent prices, which is what gasoline
is priced off of," said Patrick Hughes, an analyst with Height
Securities in Washington, D.C.
"But we're not expecting dramatic reductions in price, it will be a
low percentage change," he added.
However, independent refiners such as Valero Energy, the first
refiner to publicly oppose easing the restrictions, say this
argument is flawed.
"The whole reason producers support unlimited exports is because
they're seeking a higher price for their oil," says Bill Day, a
"It's pretty clear to us that higher crude oil prices should lead to
more expensive gasoline," he added.
(Editing by Edward McAllister and Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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