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Area congressmen push to lift oil export ban

By: Jacob Batte, HoumaToday.com
September 19, 2015

 

 

Louisiana congressmen are playing a key role in proposed legislation to lift a decades-old ban on crude oil exports, setting up a battle with President Barack Obama.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday approved legislation lifting the ban by a 31-19 vote, with three Democrats joining 28 Republicans to back the bill.

“Lifting the ban on crude oil exports, a relic of the 1970s, is a common-sense change that will create good jobs here at home while strengthening America’s energy security by increasing domestic oil production,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, a member of the committee. “Permitting the export of domestic crude oil would create thousands of Louisiana jobs, strengthen American energy security and lower gas prices at the pump.”

The White House opposes the bill, arguing that a decision on whether to end the ban should be made by the Commerce Department, not Congress.

Lawmakers who support the bill say an ongoing boom in oil and gas drilling has made the restrictions obsolete.

“America can compete and win on a level playing field. Energy production in the U.S. has grown dramatically since this restriction was first put in place 40 years ago, and lifting the ban will help unlock our potential,” said U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.

Officials say the House could vote on the export ban by the end of the month.

“It’s not fair to limit our domestic producers while Iran, Venezuela, Russia and the rest of the world sell oil on the global market,” said U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette. “It’s been well-documented that lifting this ban will have little to no negative effect on the domestic price of oil – but it will have a tremendous positive impact on our domestic industry by allowing them to become a player in markets around the world. This is simply the right thing to do.”

Opponents said lifting the ban would benefit big oil companies at the expense of U.S. consumers and even national security. The United States still imports about 25 percent of oil used by businesses and consumers, a figure that could rise if some U.S. oil is diverted to international markets, said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif.

Under a best-case scenario, allowing U.S. exports would reduce gas prices by about 2 cents a gallon, Eshoo said, a small benefit for consumers but a major windfall for oil companies.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest accused Republicans of trying to “cozy up to oil interests” by pursuing policies that benefit the oil and gas industry. He urged Republicans to support efforts to eliminate subsidies for oil and gas companies and back investments in wind and solar power and other renewable energy.

Over the summer, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved legislation, which includes an amendment from U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, that would lift the ban on crude oil exports and open some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration

Along with lifting the 40-year-old ban, the bill would increase oil and gas revenues owed to the state and create more than 200,000 jobs over the next 20 years by opening restricted parts of the Gulf of Mexico and lifting the revenue-sharing cap on the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.