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Spending deal to lift oil export ban

Spending deal to lift oil export ban
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Lawmakers have agreed to lift the four-decade-old ban on crude oil exports as part of a spending and tax package announced by congressional leadership on Tuesday night, according to a GOP lawmaker.

In exchange, Republicans agreed to extend a series of expired or expiring renewable energy tax breaks. Both the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit won five-year extensions in the tax and spending package unveiled on Tuesday, the GOP lawmaker said.  

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Lifting the crude oil ban was a key goal for Republicans, who have said American oil producers should have expanded access to the international market at a time of low prices and new competition from Iranian oil. 

Democrats have long proposed trading the renewable energy credits for crude oil exports, though until recently there was little movement on getting an exports-tax credit package to the Senate floor. 

But Republicans were aggressive in pushing to including the crude oil bill in the end-of-the-year tax overhaul and spending bills. Democrats worked to tie exports to renewables in the package, with Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: Comey should be investigated in wake of Russia report Spokesman: NY Times ignored Reid's comments in pre-election story on Russia Senate passes dozens of bills on way out of town MORE (D-Nev.) saying Tuesday morning that Republicans were weighing a Democratic offer to accept either both provisions or neither of them. 

Export supporters say the possibly of Iranian oil hitting the global market as sanctions are lifted on the country would hurt American producers. Ending the export ban, a policy instituted to respond to the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970s, would help level the playing field, they said. 

The White House has opposed lifting the export ban on its own, saying the Commerce Department already has the right to approve exports on a limited basis. 

Even so, officials didn’t rule out this week some type of compromise on the matter, implying they supported bringing renewable energy credits into the mix.

“We oppose legislation that would lift the ban on the exporting of American crude oil,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday. 

“But we certainly do want to see Congress — and hopefully they will in the context of this budget agreement — make the kinds of investments in renewable and clean energy that are good for our economy and have the potential to create good American middle-class jobs down the line.”

Green groups have opposed lifting the ban at all, warning about the impact it would have on the use of fossil fuels around the world. 

Bill McKibben, the co-founder of the climate change group 350.org, called lifting the ban hypocritical in light of the climate agreement leaders reached in Paris this weekend. 

“Doing it the week after the solemn and pious talk about saving the planet is not like some parent who smoked dope in the ‘70s warning their daughter about drugs — it’s like a parent who is currently high warning their daughter about drugs,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “You might as well hold the launch party for your vegetarian cookbook at a steakhouse.”

—Scott Wong contributed. This report was updated at 10:24 p.m.