The House voted 261-159 in favor of lifting the ban, which was first enacted by the Congress in the 1970s after Arab oil embargo that caused domestic gasoline prices to go up at high levels. Since then, the United States is monitoring its oil supply.
Earlier this week, Pres. Obama said if the House approves the bill, it will veto it. The White House issued a statement indicating that a bill ending the ban on oil exports is “not needed at this time,” and the Congress should focus its efforts on supporting the country’s “transition to a low-carbon economy.”
The bill passed with bipartisan support. Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of the bill, which is expected to face strong opposition from lawmakers in the Senate.
Arguments in favor of lifting the oil exports ban
The proponents of the bill argued that the ban on oil exports is no longer useful since the United States’ oil and gas production reached record highs. According to them, lifting the ban on oil exports will help create more jobs for Americans, increase U.S. exports overseas, and reduce domestic gasoline prices.
In September, the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that exporting oil will help lower gas prices.
They also believe that lifting the ban offers geopolitical benefits because it would reduce the fuel dependence of its allies in countries like Russia.
During a floor debate on Friday, Republic Congressman Joe Barton of Texas said, “This bill is a market-based bill: willing buyer, willing seller. U.S. oil can go anywhere in the world if we allow it to. That is an economic asset. It is a military, strategic asset.”
Oil companies including Continental Resources, ConocoPhillips, and Encana have been lobbying with the Congress, to lift the ban on oil exports.
Encana CEO Doug Suttles said, “An extra dollar or two for the price of our product today is very important because our margins are incredibly squeezed.”
“Today’s vote starts us down the path to a new era of energy security, saving consumers billions and creating jobs across the country. 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, said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute in a statement.
The opponents of the bill argued that economic impact of lifting the ban on oil exports was overblown. It will harm jobs in the refining sector and poses environmental risks because oil companies will pump more oil for exports.
Democratic Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey said, “This legislation eagerly embraces short-term profits and benefits without understanding — or even considering — the cost of such a major action. We can’t afford to make that mistake. We should ensure we fully understand and consider the enduring consequences of our actions and choose the cleanest and most sustainable path forward
Franz Matzner, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an anti-oil initiative, commented that the vote to end the ban on oil exports is a “giveaway to the oil industry that would undermine the progress of our country to use more clean energy and fight climate change.”