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Heitkamp: U.S. reaches record oil export levels

By Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

North Dakotans know a thing or two about energy booms. We know what a true all-of-the-above energy strategy means because we live it. And we have felt the economic rewards that energy development has brought to our state.

Earlier this month, we reached a new record. The United States had two consecutive weeks where U.S. crude oil exports averaged over two million barrels a day — and North Dakota crude was a major contributor to those numbers. That's worth repeating — North Dakota crude contributed a new crude oil export record. And, some reports say the United States could become the world's largest crude oil and petroleum products exporter as early as next year — beating Saudi Arabia.

There's a simple explanation for why this is happening now. Three years ago, Congress lifted the 40-year old ban on exporting oil — a relic of the Nixon administration that no longer made sense. It was a deal that I worked on for a year and a half with Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. We built support in Congress and with the previous administration for the effort, reached a deal to gain support for it from Republicans and Democrats, and got enough votes to change this outdated policy.Many thought it wasn't possible — but we proved them wrong.

Around that time, the New York Times wrote that "For months, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, formed a quiet, persistent alliance as they sought to convince their colleagues that it was time to end a more than 40-year ban on crude oil exports."

As we worked to persuade other members of Congress, the case was simple: lifting the ban on exporting U.S. oil would keep our country safer, create American jobs, enable us to gain ground on our foreign competitors, and boost our influence across the globe. Now, we're seeing those arguments come true.

Exporting American oil has enabled us to exert soft power abroad, rather than through military force. Many of our allies used to get much of their oil from Russia, Venezuela, or volatile regions in the Middle East and Africa. Now, many of them get oil from the U.S. instead, decreasing the influence of unfriendly and unstable countries.

The oil and gas industry now employs over 70,000 people in North Dakota — helping lift up our economy, supporting American workers, and boosting an industry that continues to grow in our state.

And exporting U.S. oil helps stabilize oil markets and energy prices. In the past, if the same set of geopolitical circumstances were taking place and U.S. crude oil were locked in without the ability to export, prices would already be significantly higher. Having our oil in the global markets brings stability and reduces volatility in the markets.

The deal we negotiated also paired lifting the ban on exporting oil with extending tax credits for renewable energies, including wind energy — which was also a win for North Dakota and a priority I've long pushed for.

A new report from Navigant Consulting found that American wind energy will drive over $85 billion in economic activity in the next four years and employ almost 250,000 workers across the country — and this growth is in large part due to our work to extend wind tax credits.

In North Dakota, wind energy development has seen huge increases in the wake of our bill, with LM Wind adding 200 jobs in Grand Forks last year. North Dakota is now the No. 1 state in the nation for wind energy jobs per capita, and third in the country for clean energy jobs per capita.

In North Dakota, we know firsthand that harnessing our natural resources just makes sense. But many others in Congress don't always understand that — and you can't force policy changes. To make them lasting, you have to work for them — which is why I worked so hard back in 2014 and 2015 to make the case to lift the oil export ban. And it worked. Now we have a thriving oil industry, booming wind energy production, and growing American jobs in each sector that also support our national energy security. That's a North Dakota energy success story worth touting.

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