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Export Ban on Cook Inlet Oil Being Lifted

October 29, 1985 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Reagan administration is lifting an export ban on oil from Alaska’s Cook Inlet, clearing the way for shipments to the Far East.

″This is a small step at least toward reducing our trade imbalance,″ Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said Monday at a news conference. He added, however, that initial exports of 6,000 barrels a day would not make much of a dent in that deficit, which is estimated at $150 billion for 1985.

The administration’s move does not affect the export ban, imposed for security reasons, on Alaska North Slope oil. Lifting that restriction would require action by Congress.

Baldrige said he could provide no estimate of potential sales or when shipments might begin from Cook Inlet, which is near Anchorage.

Newly industrialized nations of East Asia, some of which are poor in natural resources, constitute the natural market for Alaska oil.

Interest in the Cook Inlet petroleum came in recent days from Taiwan and Japan, according to Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has been a proponent of such exports.

Reports have circulated for several days that the administration would clear the way for Cook Inlet exports. President Reagan told Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone of the decision when they met in New York on Friday, Baldrige said.

To release the oil, the administration waives export restrictions imposed by the Energy Policy Conservation Act.

Murkowski said Cook Inlet produces some 60,000 barrels of oil a day compared to 1,835,000 barrels daily on the North Slope.

Murkowski said a switch to North Slope oil by one California refinery that currently receives shipments from Cook Inlet could clear the way for exports of 30,000 barrels a day.

″This is a small beginning but it can be a catalyst to unlock some of the previously impenetrable barriers,″ Murkowski said.

The Energy Policy Conservation Act provides that the president may waive the export restrictions if he believes that step would serve the national interest.

Export of North Slope oil is barred by the Export Administration Act, which has tougher provisions, Baldrige said.

The initial shipments of 6,000 barrels a day would represent the ″state royalty″ share of the oil - the amount received by the state in payment for pumping rights. The governor of Alaska contracts for any sales.