Ukraine and US Energy Export Restrictions: Will Geopolitics Bring Reform?

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The situation in Ukraine has intensified political and media scrutiny of the United States’ restrictions on the export of crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG). With supplies of Russian energy to Ukraine and Europe at risk, an increasing number of politicians and commentators—many of whom have not previously opined on the issue—have called for reform of these longstanding restrictions to counter Russia’s influence in the region. Although some advocates have argued that the Obama Administration has ample discretion to liberalize crude oil or LNG exports, others have proposed congressional legislation to achieve this result.

There are several economic and legal reasons for reforming US energy export policy, but the Ukraine situation has added a geopolitical element to the political debate that was heretofore lacking. Unless the situation escalates, however, there is insufficient political support to loosen the export restrictions.

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