- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Adding more fuel to his ongoing fight with the oil-and-gas industry, President Obama on Wednesday threatened to veto House legislation that would clear the way for U.S. oil exports.

The measure, which has bipartisan support and could come up for a vote as soon as Friday, would end the nation’s 40-year-old prohibition on selling American fuel abroad. Supporters of the House bill, along with the politically powerful oil-and-gas sector, say the 1970s-era ban is no longer necessary because of the massive increase in U.S. fuel production over the past decade.

The ban was put in place at a time when domestic fuel shortages and the Arab oil embargo led the U.S. to closely guard its own oil supply.

But even though America now has an abundance of oil and gas, and even though federal data have shown ending the ban would lower domestic gasoline prices, the White House still argues Congress is wasting its time promoting fossil fuels and should instead turn its attention to renewable energy like wind and solar power.

“Legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time,” the White House said in a statement of administration policy, the most common vehicle for a formal veto threat. “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.”



Similar legislation is making its way through the Senate with bipartisan support, but Wednesday’s veto threat indicates that the administration will not change its position on exports any time soon.

Mr. Obama’s threat is the latest in a series of clashes with the oil-and-gas industry, which also has objected to the administration’s push for stronger rules governing the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, its regulations limiting carbon emissions from power plants, and other steps in the president’s broader environmentalist agenda.

Critics say the president is wrong to stand in the way of oil exports and that his veto threat raises questions about how serious the administration truly is about job creation, economic growth and selling American products abroad.

“Even experts within the administration recognize that free trade in oil could benefit American consumers and create U.S. jobs,” said Louis Finkel, executive vice president of the American Petroleum Institute. “Given the benefits for U.S. families and workers, it’s hard to imagine why the administration would reject bipartisan efforts to unlock America’s potential as an energy superpower even as it pushes for a deal to lift the oil embargo on Iran.”

Data from the federal Energy Information Administration have shown that lifting the ban could reduce U.S. gasoline prices.

“Petroleum product 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 agency said in a Sept. 1 report.

Supporters of lifting the ban argue that such a step not only would carry economic benefits for the U.S. but also would reduce allies’ fuel dependence on nations such as Russia.

Despite the veto threat, the White House indicated that it remains supportive of the increase in U.S. oil-and-gas production, provided it is accompanied by appropriate environmental safeguards.

“Domestic oil production has grown in recent years, strengthening our economy, supporting new American jobs, and enhancing our energy security. The administration has taken important steps to support safe and responsible production growth, including actions to cut methane leaks from oil and gas operations, to protect water quality, and to improve offshore safety in order to protect human lives and the environment from oil spills,” the White House said.

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