It’s not often that environmentalists and Republican leadership in Congress agree, but they do on this one, troubling issue.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Monday that lifting the oil export ban, which was included in the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, “is like having 100 Keystone pipelines.”
Of course, Ryan meant that as a good thing. Environmentalists, meanwhile, spent years campaigning against the Keystone pipeline, which would have brought oil from the Canadian tar sands to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the oil export ban repeal, the Keystone proposal finally died this fall.
“We hope the speaker is not bragging about making the climate worse,” Athan Manuel, director of the lands protection program, Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress. “Both of those things are bad news for the climate, bad news for people who care about the environment.”
By exposing producers to the global economy, lifting the oil export ban is expected to drive investment in domestic oil extraction, particularly in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That, in turn, will increase carbon emissions. It will also continue the devastation some in North Dakota are seeing from widespread flaring, increased truck traffic, and water overuse and pollution.
“We’re already seeing huge impacts on public health and natural resources,” Jessica Ellis, a senior legislative representative for Earthjustice, told ThinkProgress.
“The air side of things is pretty bad in North Dakota. There is so much flaring going on,” she said. “You also will have oil trains running across the country… I think there will be a lot of other impacts where we don’t know how it will play out.”
Exploding oil trains has increasingly become a concern across the United States, as the oil boom outpaced infrastructure to transport petroleum.
Ryan didn’t touch on any of those concerns during his conversation with told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday. Instead, he offered a jobs number that even the oil industry isn’t pushing.
“Some estimates say it could create as many as one million jobs when all is said and done,” Ryan said.
That number seems a little off.
Even the American Petroleum Institute, a trade organization that promotes oil, doesn’t go that far.
“I think he pulled it out of thin air,” the Sierra Club’s Manuel said. “I don’t think that is going to materialize. It could really cost a lot of jobs in terms of refinery jobs.”
With the export ban lifted, the oil industry is hoping to access the global market — including overseas refineries that are tailored to light, sweet crude (most U.S. refineries are set up to handle heavy crude), and are also less expensive. The United Steelworkers lobbied against lifting the ban, saying it would cost American jobs.
Still, Manuel said he hopes that under Ryan’s leadership, Congress can pivot more towards the global effort to curb climate change.
“We’re hopeful that instead of bragging about more drilling and helping the oil industry, moving forward, he will help America meet the goals it set in Paris,” Manuel said.