Will Markey’s Keystone Export Ban Come Back to Bite Him?

by Marlo Lewis on February 15, 2012

in Blog, Features

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File this one under “be careful what you wish for.” Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) must have thought he was being very clever. At a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting on legislation to authorize construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Markey introduced an amendment banning U.S. exports of petroleum products made from Keystone crude.

For Markey, the amendment was never a serious legislative proposal. For one thing, as explained on this site and MasterResource.Org, an export ban would violate U.S. treaty obligations under both the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In addition, Markey knew Republicans could not support the ban without jeopardizing the long-term supply contracts that pipeline builder-operator TransCanada Corp. had negotiated with Gulf Coast refiners — contracts on which the project’s commercial viability depends.

In fact, Markey was counting on Republicans to vote against the ban, as that allegedly would expose them as duplicitous shills who care only about oil industry profits, not about reducing dependence on OPEC or alleviating pain at the pump. As also explained in the previous columns, Markey’s exposé is itself bogus, because (1) Keystone crude would displace OPEC crude whether the associated refined products were sold domestically or overseas, and (2) much of the refined product would likely be sold in the USA.

This just in: What Markey introduced as a rhetorical prop may be sprouting legislative wings in the Democrat-controlled Senate, where it could win votes to overturn President Obama’s rejection of Keystone XL. Yesterday in National Journal (subscription required), energy reporter Amy Harder wrote:

Now, liberal Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has drafted a bill to ban exports of both Keystone-shipped oil and refined petroleum products made from that oil. The effort by Wyden, in line to chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee next year if Democrats hold the Senate, makes environmentalists nervous, because it could conceivably get enough Democratic support to move a bill mandating approval of the pipeline out of the Senate. Such a measure would be certain to pass in the Republican-controlled House.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said late last month that he may support the pipeline if the oil stayed here. His staff has been in contact with Wyden’s office on the export-ban proposal. Wyden’s involvement has thus elevated an environmental talking point to a seeming legislative possibility.


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