Clinton May Ask Congress to Allow Alaska Oil Exports

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON _ The Clinton administration is weighing whether to join several oil companies, some California producers and Alaska state officials in urging Congress to allow the export of North Slope crude oil to Asia.

Congress required the oil be sold only in the United States when it authorized creation of the trans-Alaska pipeline in the 1970s.

But some North Slope producers, especially British Petroleum Co., and some independent producers in California are pressing to end the export ban. The California producers hope the exports would divert Alaska oil from their state and boost their sagging industry.

But an end to the ban, which would require congressional action, would likely prompt opposition from environmentalists, the U.S. maritime industry and consumer advocates, who maintain it would increase West Cost gasoline prices.

Administration officials, asking not to be identified further, said the issue has prompted a lively debate within the administration with the Energy Department generally leaning toward ending the ban.

Department spokesman Joey Lucas said Wednesday that no decision has been made by the department. "We are preparing a study on the economic gains and losses of lifting the ban," he acknowledged.

Some senior officials, including Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, have been generally favorable toward allowing exports as a way to boost domestic oil production and increase jobs in the California and Alaska oil fields. …