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U.S. Mulls Lifting Oil Export Ban

Oil Drilling

By Reuters 06-03-2015 09:54:21

The Republican chairman of the House of Representatives' energy panel said lifting the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports would benefit consumers and the country's allies, a move that could boost support for legislation in the chamber.

"Oil exports can be a win for the American people and a win for our allies," said Representative Fred Upton of Michigan in prepared remarks at a hearing.

Allowing exports should be "on this Committee's agenda this year," because of the potential to create jobs by expanding the market for U.S. oil, Upton said.

He did not say whether he would sponsor a bill introduced by fellow Republican Joe Barton on the panel, which currently has 40 co-sponsors in the 435-member House.

Upton's words could clear the path for more representatives to support the bill to overturn the trade restriction Congress enacted in the 1970s after the Arab oil embargo.

Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, introduced a bill to overturn the ban last month. It has 13 co-sponsors, including one Democrat.

Oil producers eager to ship to markets in Asia and Europe say the ban has led to a glut of U.S. sweet crude that could eventually choke the domestic drilling boom, cutting jobs in the sector.

George Baker, head of the Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, said in a statement that lifting the ban would benefit U.S. consumers, workers and the overall economy.

The Obama administration took steps last year to hasten exports of minimally processed light oil called condensate. But it is unlikely to take the major step of fully lifting the ban. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has pointed out several times that the United States still imports millions of barrels of oil per day.

Jay Hauck, the director of the CRUDE coalition, a group of four refiners who oppose lifting the ban, said removing the trade restriction could raise domestic gasoline prices.