Royal Dutch Shell's new-ish CEO Ben van Beurden joined the industry push to lift the ban on U.S. crude oil exports this week, but he says it's not directly about the money.
It's about economic principle, and it's about the people. That's basically what van Beurden told CNBC's Jim Cramer in an interview that aired Wednesday evening, noting that from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, his company is somewhat "indifferent" on allowing exports.
"If you look at it from a logical, macroeconomic perspective, it does make sense. It does make sense for the country, it does make sense for the consumers," said van Beurden, who became CEO in January. "For us as a company, we are advocates of free trade, therefore you would expect us to advocate for that."
Shell is a huge "integrated" oil and petrochemicals company, which means it not only drills for and produces crude oil, but also refines it and sells to consumers. The company is also a major player in global natural-gas production and export markets.
"If it happens or doesn't happen, to some extent we are reasonably well-hedged across the value chain," van Beurden said of exports."So export or no export, I think to some extent we will be indifferent."
"But I think it does make sense for the U.S. economy to allow export of hydrocarbons in the crude form," he added, noting that the U.S. already exports lots of gasoline and diesel fuel.
There's a growing push by the oil industry and some lawmakers, notably Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, to relax major restrictions on crude-oil exports that date back to the oil shocks of the 1970s.
The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's biggest lobbying group, and a number of major individual companies support exports. But the industry is not entirely united on the topic.
Some independent refiners, fearful of higher crude prices if U.S. producers have access to global markets, are lobbying to keep the ban. And a pair of liberal Democratic senators who oppose exports are pushing the Obama administration for details on Commerce Department decisions to allow two companies to export an ultralight form of crude oil that has been minimally processed.
Shell's CEO, who has been with the company for 30 years, firmly planted the company's flag in the pro-export camp in remarks in New York City on Tuesday.
According to Reuters, he said at Columbia University energy conference that both oil and natural-gas exports "would reinforce the long-term future of North American energy production," improve the U.S. trade balance, and "help to make the global energy system much more stable."
In late July Shell reported a 33 percent increase in second-quarter profits. The upstream—that is, exploration and production—side of its business accounts for the bulk of its earnings.