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RPT-U.S. energy security, prices at risk from crude oil exports-report

WASHINGTON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Lifting a decades-old ban on the export of most U.S. crude oil would raise domestic gasoline prices and squander the United States' new-found energy security, according to an analysis published Tuesday by a group with close ties to the Obama administration. The Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank founded by John Podesta, who is now a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, issued a policy brief ahead of the Senate energy committee hearing on Thursday. Daniel Weiss, CAP's director of climate strategy, will be among those testifying at the panel, the first by Congress to debate the pros and cons of updating restrictions on crude oil that have been largely unchanged since the 1970s. Oil producers and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are agitating for change, arguing that domestic refineries built for handling heavier types of imported crude oil cannot handle the growing glut of light, sweet crude oil from the domestic shale boom in the Bakken region of North Dakota. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz raised eyebrows last month when he said this and other energy policies, crafted during an era of scarcity, should be revisited. Weiss, a co-author of the CAP brief, argued that Obama should retain the sweeping ban on exports in order to keep protect consumers at the gasoline pump, who have benefited from "enhanced gasoline price stability." "The lower domestic price for oil benefits families, businesses, and the overall economy," the brief said. CAP's analysis said lifting the ban would result in higher gasoline prices for U.S. consumers. It pointed to the example of West Coast gasoline prices, which jumped as a result of the 1996 lifting of the ban on crude oil from Alaska, which supplied most of the region's supply. Citing a 2006 report by the Congressional Research Service, the CAP said that prior to 1996 West Coast gasoline prices were only five cents per gallon higher than the national average. By 1999, that differential rose to 15 cents per gallon. After Alaska crude exports ceased in the early 2000s, the differential between West Coast gasoline prices and national prices narrowed again. "This experience suggests that lifting the crude oil export ban could similarly raise gasoline prices because 68 percent of the price of a gallon of gasoline is the price of oil," the CAP report said. "Additionally, domestic oil exported overseas would be replaced by more-expensive imported oil, which could then be reflected in higher gasoline prices." CAP also said easing or removing crude oil export restrictions could jeopardize the relative energy security that has resulted from rising production in the United States. According to the Energy