Lifting the 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports is the fastest way the American drilling boom could be used to bolster energy security in Europe and Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, the CEO of the biggest operator in North Dakota's vast oil fields will tell lawmakers on Wednesday.
In the wake of Russia's invasion and annexation of the Crimean region of Ukraine, several U.S. lawmakers have introduced bills pushing the Department of Energy to speed approvals of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from more than 20 projects.
The extra U.S. LNG, the argument goes, would provide Europe an alternative to gas supplies from Russia, from which it gets nearly a third of its fuel, or at least it would help lower prices in natural gas markets.
(Read more: Louisiana terminal gets OK to export natgas)
But the first U.S. project to export LNG from the United States to countries with which Washington does not have free trade agreements would not launch until late next year. Other projects would take years longer as billions of dollars of equipment needs to be built. In addition, Ukraine lacks an LNG port, and Turkey does not allow LNG tankers to reach the country through the Bosphorus straits.
"While opening LNG exports is a noble goal and one that we as a country are actively working towards, the fact is the infrastructure to undertake large scale overnight LNG exports does not currently exist," Harold Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, will tell lawmakers at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing slated for Wednesday morning.
"If we want to have an overnight impact on today's global events, we can immediately begin exporting crude oil, which does not have the same infrastructure constraints" as LNG, he will say, according to prepared remarks.
Hamm could benefit from an easing of the export ban by selling more of the crude from the Bakken North Dakota oilfields, where Continental is the biggest lease holder.
(Read more: Think US natgas can threaten Russia? Think again)