Cheaper Gas Means Survival, Not Savings: Repeal the Ban on Crude Oil Exports | Commentary

Posted August 4, 2015 at 11:43am

Americans are experiencing lower prices at the gas pump, but these savings have not translated to more spending in other areas.

Some economists have proposed that only the wealthy are using their savings for more spending, while the less wealthy are using their savings to pay off debt and replenish their bank accounts. This proposal may have some truth to it, but there is something happening in communities around the country that may be contributing to the problem. It’s something that should force us to take a close look at the laws that are holding us back — laws such as the ban on U.S. crude oil exports.

As my colleagues Reps. Joe L. Barton, R-Texas, and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, wrote earlier this month, “The advantages of lifting the ban on crude oil exports are not just theoretical talking points discussed in the halls of Congress  . . . ” They are exactly right — lifting the ban has real-life effects for American families.

In my home state of Oklahoma, many towns have been affected by the loss of jobs in the oil in gas industry. A national newspaper recently reported that one such town is Enid, home to Mike Gillham, who lost his job for an oil rig servicing company when the drilling sites he serviced began to shut down. Now, he has a job pouring concrete for half the pay.

Stories like this are not isolated to Enid, Okla. Families in communities across the country have experienced the negative effects of cutbacks in the oil and gas industry.

In communities where families rely on jobs in the oil and gas industry, savings at the gas pump probably means survival — not necessarily the opportunity to put money into savings or stock up on luxury items at the grocery story.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. oil and gas industry supports more than 9 million jobs nationwide. An individual who starts-off as a front-line worker — such as Mike Gillham — may not have a college education, but he or she can still make upward of $50,000 a year. Industries like this are few and far between. In my home state of Oklahoma, the average annual salary across all industries and sectors is $41,768. In the oil and gas industry it is $79,275.

It is imperative lawmakers support the industry that supports so many of our communities. We need laws that incentivize innovation and job creation, not regulations that drastically reduce our workforce.

There is no reason why a 40-year-old law should be dictating our national energy strategy today, especially when the environment in which this law was created has drastically changed. We did not even have computers when this law was enacted. Now, very few people could do their jobs without a computer.

Do not misunderstand me — we need to keep our energy prices down so families can continue to benefit from savings at the gas pump. But we also need to look at the larger picture. Are there enough jobs to go around in our communities? Do our laws and regulations promote job growth? The answers to these questions need to be yes and yes.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin is a Republican from Oklahoma.