The House voted 261-159 Friday to lift the 40-year-old oil export ban, but the measure still faces an uncertain future.
Friday's passage was cheered by oil interests, who have lobbied aggressively to have the ban repealed. They have argued that repeal will create jobs and even lower gasoline prices by creating new demand for American oil.
“Today’s vote starts us down the path to a new era of energy security, saving consumers billions and creating jobs across the country,” said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. “American producers would be able to compete on a level playing field with countries like Iran and Russia, providing security to our allies and accelerating the energy revolution that has revitalized our economy."
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.”
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. Environmentalists fear it will stall forward progress on alternative energy and could result in more pollution.
Earlier this week, the Obama administration threatened to veto the bill in a statement of administration policy released by the Office of Management and Budget.
“Legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time,” the statement reads. “Rather, Congress should be focusing its efforts on supporting our transition to a low-carbon economy. It could do this through a variety of measures, including ending the billions of dollars a year in Federal subsidies provided to oil companies and instead investing in wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other clean technologies to meet America's energy needs.”
Two similar bills in the Senate have passed through committee, but Republican backers are struggling to generate enough support from Democrats to pass legislation in the full chamber.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., a supporter of repeal, told The Hill this week that she thought Senate Democrats would be open to discussion on legislation to lift the ban.