In 1975, after the country was shaken by the Arab oil embargo, Congress passed a ban on exporting crude oil from the United States. The motivation was to promote domestic fuel production and efficiency and to decrease U.S. dependence on foreign resources.

Forty years later, we’re still working toward these goals. And we’re also trying to slash greenhouse-gas emissions, which are aggravated by fossil fuel consumption. So it’s unclear why a movement to lift the crude export ban has been gaining momentum in Washington, where it enjoyed a victory last month in the House. Now that the proposal is headed to the Senate, we urge Maine’s Susan Collins and Angus King to come out against it — and stand up for the well-being of their constituents and the environment.

Who would gain if the United States once again allowed crude oil exports? U.S. oil companies, which are seeking access to the world market in order to make up for the damage done to their bottom line by falling oil prices. Repealing the ban would be a huge gift to these firms.

But there would be serious downsides for everyone outside the industry. Lifting the ban likely would spur more well drilling, enabling the production of up to 3.3 million more barrels of oil per day for the next 20 years, according to a study commissioned by the pro-repeal Brookings Institution.

If just a fraction of this additional oil is burned, greenhouse-gas emissions could rise by up to 22 million metric tons annually — the same amount of pollution caused by five average-sized coal power plants. This would fuel the climate crisis blamed for this year’s flooding in the Southeast and drought in the Southwest. Maine would see more Lyme disease-causing ticks, as well as more record summer heat and poor air-quality days — no boon to the many residents with lung conditions.

Allowing crude oil exports also would send the wrong message about how best to meet America’s energy needs. Policymakers would be supporting the status quo when they should be doing more to encourage investment in and use of alternatives to fossil fuels, such as conservation and wind and solar power initiatives. And if increased oil production did lower oil prices, consumers would have less of an incentive to take advantage of cleaner technologies.

For decades, Maine and Mainers have been committed to the environment and to preserving it for future generations. Mainers should call on Sens. Collins and King to advance this mission by voting to keep the export ban in place.

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