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

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The issue of US gasoline exports could become controversial if they continue through the summer when average gasoline prices are expected to be even higher than the current price which is $3.61 a gallon according to AAA. By this summer there are some predictions gasoline prices could eclipse the old record of $4.11 a gallon set in July of 2008 and perhaps peak closer to $4.50 a gallon.

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.

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