Refiners oppose exports-for-renewables deal

Source: Geof Koss, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A top refining industry trade group has come out against a possible legislative deal that would lift the longstanding crude oil export ban in exchange for extending renewable tax credits.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent yesterday, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers President Chet Thompson expressed “strong opposition to any legislation that includes subsidies for renewable energy, energy taxes, or fees in exchange for lifting the crude oil export ban.”

While no such legislation has yet surfaced, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in August suggested that Democrats could support lifting the crude ban if renewable tax credits extensions were included as well.

Talk of such an agreement has stepped up following House passage earlier this month of a bill ending the 1970s-era prohibition on crude exports, as supporters acknowledge they’re short of the 60 votes necessary to surpass a filibuster in the Senate.

In his letter to McConnell, AFPM’s Thompson maintains the group supports free trade.

“AFPM, however, will not compromise one free-market principle to secure another, and thus we would vigorously oppose any agreement or legislation linking the lifting of the crude oil export ban with subsidies, mandates, taxes, or other federal energy or environmental programs that intrude on the free market,” he wrote.

While American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard last week estimated there were at least 20 to 30 options for a negotiated legislative end to the ban, the two that are currently sparking the most discussion include extensions of the renewable production and investment tax credits and extending the Land and Water Conservation Fund (Greenwire, Oct. 14).

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told E&E Daily yesterday that lawmakers are trying to gauge the level of support each addition brings to the bill.

“This is where you weigh everything,” she said of adding renewable tax credits to the discussion. “Do we lose Republicans on that? That’s what we’re trying to gauge. You’ve seen discussion about LWCF. Is that the right balance? I think we’re all trying to figure out what it might be, what it might look like.”

Murkowski emphasized that there are additional options under discussion, besides renewable credits and LWCF.

“Those are what a lot of people are talking about right now — it doesn’t mean that’s the whole universe,” she said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) told E&E Daily yesterday that she’s been keeping the White House apprised of the state of play with an eye toward a deal.

“We have spent a lot of time trying to make people aware that there is an opportunity here to do a broader package if they are open to getting that done,” she said.

Echoing comments by other lawmakers, Heitkamp said she expects a possible deal on crude exports to end up in an end-of-year omnibus package.

“I think it is the most likely [vehicle], and at that point the question is what is it that’s going to end up in the omnibus,” she said.

But Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) yesterday said the weight of too many add-ons to end the crude export ban could end up sinking a package, noting for example that a tax extenders package that includes green energy credits may move as part of an omnibus as well.

“People who are trying to work all these agreements have to be careful,” he told E&E Daily. So to say that now you’re going to add some things on top of what may already be in a year-end deal, like tax extenders, that gets hard to do without losing a lot of additional votes.”