Oil CEOs in Washington to ask for ban to be lifted on US exports of crude

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) - About a dozen U.S. drilling executives, including ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance, were in Washington this week trying to persuade White House officials and lawmakers to lift the 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports, according to two people familiar with the meetings.

Chief executives from the lobbying group Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, or PACE, met with White House senior energy policy adviser Brian Deese March 11 to ask the Obama administration to roll back a prohibition on most U.S. oil exports imposed after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, according to two people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions weren't public.

Producers are eager to lift the ban because oil in the U.S. is selling for about US$10 less than the global benchmark. An end to the ban would allow U.S. producers to sell for higher prices.

CEOs from eleven of PACE's 16 member companies flew to Washington for meetings with administration officials and lawmakers, including Marathon Oil Corp. CEO Lee Tillman, Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Doug Lawler and Occidental Petroleum Corp. CEO Steve Chazen, according to the group. They also briefed federal officials and lawmakers on market conditions, including industry job cuts, oil-production levels and the idling of oil rigs, said one of the people who was briefed on the discussions.

"We've had a series of very productive meetings with senators from both parties and the administration and look forward to continuing those conversations in the months ahead," PACE Executive Director George Baker said in a statement.

Frank Benenati, a White House spokesman, didn't respond to a request for comment.

Administration officials, including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, have called the restrictions antiquated, and they are being reviewed in a years-long study in the department.

U.S. energy policies severely restrict crude exports while applying no such limits to products processed in refineries. U.S. refiners are exporting record amounts of gasoline while producers contend with depressed oil prices. The U.S. has surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia as the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson urged the government and Congress to allow U.S. exports of oil and natural gas.

"With free trade in energy and common-sense regulatory reforms, the U.S. energy industry can strengthen U.S. energy security and continue to pioneer the innovations that make possible the safe and responsible development of energy," Tillerson said in remarks Thursday to the Economic Club of Washington, according to an Exxon statement.

Executives also met on Capitol Hill with aides to Senator Lisa Murkowski, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, has publicly backed lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports and is working on a broad rewrite of U.S. energy laws.