US Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said it would be geopolitically, economically, and strategically absurd for the US to maintain outmoded oil and gas export restrictions while permitting Iran to increase its sales to foreign customers under the recently concluded nuclear arms limitation agreement.
“Our allies regularly call on the US to end these bans,” Cornyn said in July 23 remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Earlier this month, the Czech ambassador said it would send a strong signal to both our allies and their adversaries. It also would mean that Russian and Iranian aggression would not be bankrolled by our allies and friends.”
Unfortunately, the US is stifled by decades-old policies based on energy scarcity instead of abundance that stifle its domestic production growth while undermining its allies’ security, the senator said. “Promoting American energy would strengthen our hand around the world, enhance our security, and improve our economy,” he said.
Last week’s multilateral nuclear arms agreement with Iran includes removal of sanctions preventing the country from exporting more of its oil and gas, Cornyn said. “It already is one of the biggest suppliers to South Korea and other US allies in Asia,” he said. “Iran can be expected to use the windfall of more supplies to more customers to rebuild its military and continue to covertly fund terrorist groups in other countries.
“We’re the 800-lb gorilla,” Cornyn added. “It’s interesting to see, however, how many of our allies and other P-5 countries already have delegations in Tehran trying to make deals.”
Asked why debate on removing the US crude export ban has not moved forward in Congress, he said the issue probably isn’t as politically mature as that of allowing more LNG exports. Cornyn noted that Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alas.) and Ranking Minority Member Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.) jointly introduced their comprehensive energy bill a day earlier, which he hoped will frame the oil and gas exports debate.
“I can’t give you a timetable,” Cornyn said. “This fall is going to be kind of bumpy because we’re going to be tied up in so many other issues that are going to eat up a lot of oxygen. The fact Sens. Murkowski and Cantwell are working together makes me hope they’ll be able to have a bill ready for Majority Leader [Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)] to bring to the floor.”
More policymakers also need to understand that US energy abundance is an important geopolitical asset that needs to be used more to improve domestic security, Cornyn said. “I hope we can make this a part of the presidential campaigns,” he said. “If the winner stakes a claim on it, he or she can claim it as a mandate and move us forward. I hope we can get the candidates to think about this in a different way than before.”
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