A full House vote is expected by the end of the month on legislation to repeal a 40-year-old ban on the export of crude oil from the U.S., but the White House indicated this week that it does not support efforts to lift the ban.
On Thursday, The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 31-19 in favor of a bill to lift the ban sponsored by Republican representative Joe Barton of Texas. Three Democrats joined 28 Republicans in support of the legislation.
Republican representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader, spoke in favor of repeal in Houston on Tuesday.
“If there was ever a time to lift the oil export ban, it’s now,” McCarthy said. “Lifting the oil export ban will not only help our economy, it will also bolster our geopolitical standing.”
The oil industry has lobbied aggressively to repeal the ban, touting job creation benefits and even lower gasoline prices that they say will follow new demand for already booming domestic oil production. McCarthy’s remarks on Tuesday came before the Greater Houston Partnership, which is largely supported by major oil companies.
The White House criticized the Republican-led plan to repeal the ban, with press secretary Josh Earnest noting that the administration’s position is that “this is a policy decision that’s made over at the Commerce Department. And for that reason, we wouldn’t support legislation like the one that’s been put forward by Republicans.”
Earnest pointed to McCarthy’s Houston audience, adding that “it is pretty clear, once again, where Republicans in Congress and their political benefactors stand when it comes to their energy policy priorities.”
Opponents of repealing the ban argue that it would make it more difficult for U.S. refineries to compete abroad and could lead to job losses.
A report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration earlier this month analyzed the potential effects of removing restrictions on imports. Among other conclusions, the report said that “petroleum prices in the United States, including gasoline prices, would be either unchanged or slightly reduced by the removal of current restrictions on crude oil exports.”
The ban under discussion is limited to crude oil — exports of refined petroleum products including gasoline and diesel are not restricted in the same way — and the U.S. has become a substantial net exporter of such products.
Legislation in support of lifting the ban is widely expected to pass in the House, but likely will face a sterner test in the Senate. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told reporters in Washington that he supports eliminating the oil export ban, calling it a “relic of the ‘70s.”