Speaker calls for end to oil export ban

Speaker calls for end to oil export ban
© Greg Nash

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerWary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Bottom line Cheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future MORE (R-Ohio) called Wednesday for Congress to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

Boehner hadn't taken sides in the debate until Wednesday, and his endorsement likely sets the stage for a major policy battle this fall on Capitol Hill.

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“Lifting the ban would create an estimated 1 million jobs here at home, jobs that would frankly get created in every state. It would help bring down prices at the pump for consumers, and it will be good for our allies,” Boehner said at a press conference.

“I would support lifting the ban,” he said. “Hopefully, we can work together in a bipartisan fashion to bring our energy policy into this century.”

In endorsing oil exports, Boehner is joining a growing group of Republicans and some Democrats, initially from oil-drilling-heavy regions, who say it's time to open the United States’ oil industry to the world market.

Supporters argue that the export ban is an outdated policy meant to protect United States consumers from oil scarcity of the 1970s. But with domestic oil production reaching historic highs, they say it’s time to reevaluate the issue.

Boehner said the nuclear deal with Iran, which would lead to a relaxing of western sanctions for the country, boosts the case.

“If the administration wants to lift the ban for Iran, certainly the United States should not be the only country left in the world with such a ban in place,” he said.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has been leading the case for oil exports in the House, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have led efforts in the Senate.

Boehner only came to his position after he and GOP leaders did a whip count in recent days to evaluate support for lifting the ban within the party, Republicans said.

And it appears that the count was pretty decisive.

“There continue to be some skeptics, or at least politically concerned members in areas like the Northeast, where there’s a hub of refiners. But by and large, it’s whipped very strongly on our side,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who supports exporting crude.

He and other members said GOP leaders would almost definitely move for a vote in the House sometime this fall.

“I think if the bill came up today it would pass easily,” Barton said. “And it would be bipartisan. We would get almost all the Republicans and we would get a very healthy number of Democrats.”

Barton said the bill is unlikely reach the 290 votes needed for suspension of the rules, but said it could easily obtain 218 votes.

He said leaders have yet to decide whether to put his standalone bill up for a vote or to attach it to another piece of legislation.

They also have not decided whether to put the bill through regular order, as Barton favors, which would start with the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on energy and power.

“But the good news is it’s going to move in one way or another,” he said. “It does have a green-light to be considered sometime this fall.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has not formally announced support for lifting the ban, but said it could bring many benefits.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee could vote on exports as soon as Thursday. The vote would be on a Murkowski bill to lift the ban while opening more areas to offshore drilling and providing neighboring states a share of the federal royalties from that drilling.

Democrats and some Republicans are skeptical of the push, saying that allowing crude oil exports could boost prices at home. It could also increase the consumption of oil and the greenhouse gas emissions from doing so.

At a Tuesday hearing in Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said lifting the ban would be “dangerous” to the environment, while Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said it would increase gasoline prices by as much as 18 cents.

Independent oil refiners have been the most vocal opponents of lifting the prohibitions. They fear that the new demand for oil would increase their costs.

— Updated at 4:02 p.m.