What's the fastest way to take Russia down a few notches and support our allies abroad? According to Harold Hamm, who was called before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday, ending the 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports should do the trick.
He makes a convincing case. He also happens to be the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, the biggest player in North Dakota's vast Bakken oil fields.
Those pushing for increased exports are hoping that an influx of fossil fuels from the U.S. will undermine Russia's position as a major supplier of fuel to Europe in the Ukraine, helping to increase energy security in the region. At the hearing, Hamm rightly pointed out that increased natural gas exports are nowhere near an immediate solution -- first we'd need the multibillion-dollar facilities capable of liquefying the gas. There's currently one in Alaska, and another being built in Louisiana, but constructing more would take years.
"If we want to have an overnight impact on today's global events," Hamm told the committee, "we can immediately begin exporting crude oil, which does not have the same infrastructure constraints [as LNG]."
Stating the obvious, Reuters notes that Hamm "could benefit from an easing of the export ban," because it would allow Continental to sell more oil.
Michael Levi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who testified at the hearing and whose industry ties are far less pronounced, countered Hamm's assertion, arguing that U.S. exports would be "a drop in an already large sea" of the global oil market, and thus "a fairly weak tool against Russia."
It's worth noting that in total, 14 witnesses were called before the three hearings held by U.S. congressional committees this week. And as DeSmogBlog points out, not one represents environmental concerns.