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As gas prices rise, should US oil industry stop exporting?

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President Obama plans to address the gasoline price issue Thursday in Miami. However, he is mainly expected to try to blunt oil industry complaints that his administration is anti-oil company. He will also tout his efforts to get the auto industry to increase fuel standards and the Department of Energy’s efforts to promote clean energy technology.

But, when it comes to oil industry exports of gasoline, there may not be many policy options for Obama unless he wants to start to interfere with the marketplace.

“I don’t think there are any powers the president has that allow him to do that by statute or otherwise,” says Charles Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “I guess behind the scenes he could jawbone the industry to ask them to stop exporting for the good of the nation.”

Mr. Ebinger says the oil industry might want to scale back the exports since “it’s not the best public relations in the world to export when prices are rising at home.” Obama might be able to halt the exports using the war powers act, much like the US did during World War II.

Mr. Brockwell of the Oil Price Information Service thinks it would probably take some kind of legislation from Congress to cut off the exports.        

“I guess Congress could institute some kind of tariff or fee,” says Brockwell “I’m not sure if you could do it by executive order.”

The oil industry maintains there is no cause for alarm.

“First of all it is a very small amount,” says John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute (API), which lobbies for the oil industry in Washington. Mr. Felmy estimates exports represent 4 percent of total US gasoline production.     

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