Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, called for a drastic change in course for the United States' energy policy, proposing to lift the country's four-decade ban on crude oil exports if he's elected president.
"This ban is a perfect example of just how outdated Washington has become," Rubio said in a speech Wednesday in Oklahoma City.
The ban on most exports of raw, unprocessed crude oil was signed into law in the 1970s as a way to protect United States energy independence and has since become a point of contention between Democrats and Republicans. Now, it's up for a vote in the House as soon as this month, after legislation to lift the ban passed in the Senate this summer.
Opponents of lifting the ban argue oil prices would rise, U.S. refinery jobs - many of which hit the middle class - would be put at risk, and that lifting the ban would also harm the environment. Supporters, like Rubio, say allowing unrestricted domestic oil exports would actually create more jobs and reduce prices.
"It is private innovators, not government officials, who are best suited to discover cleaner, cheaper, and more efficient ways to access our resources," Rubio argued. "It will strengthen our national security interests by stabilizing global energy markets and reducing the leverage of oil-rich anti-American governments."
But the Democratic National Committee says just the opposite - and that in fact it is Rubio's proposals that are outdated, not Washington's.
Calling him "Retro Rubio," DNC Spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said in a statement, "Rubio is just a puppet to Big Oil and any dirty ideas that will move our country into the past."
In a National Review op-ed, Rubio maintained that this is the kind of rhetoric that has made energy "one of the most politicized and regulated aspects of our economy" - something he's looking to change with the removal of strict federal regulations.
"Many regulations are concerned with protecting the environment, and some of these are important, Rubio said. "We all want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. We all want to preserve the natural beauty of our land. But while many of the environmental concerns influencing regulations are legitimate, others are seriously overblown."
Another "overblown" regulation he'd like to keep from becoming enacted is the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which he says, if signed into law, would result in the closure of coal-fired plants around the country and kill thousands of jobs.
"It would jeopardize the reliability of our national power grid, threatening power shortages and even blackouts. It would truly be one of the most expensive and costly regulations ever created," he said.
Rubio says he also plans to give more power to the states on energy production. He has promised to expand on his energy proposals more fully later this fall.