The House on Friday passed legislation approving U.S. oil exports, setting up another showdown with President Obama.
Mr. Obama earlier this week threatened to veto the bill, which passed the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 261 to 159 on Friday afternoon. Twenty-six Democrats voted in favor of the bill.
The measure undoes a 40-year-old ban on exporting American oil. The policy originated in the 1970s, when global shortages and the Arab oil embargo led the U.S. to closely guard its own supply, but proponents of lifting the ban say it has outlived its usefulness at a time when U.S. oil-and-gas production has reached record highs.
Those proponents argue lifting the ban not only would lead to more American jobs and increase U.S. exports abroad, they also point to Obama administration research that shows ending the prohibition likely would drive down domestic gasoline prices.
Supporters also say lifting the ban would carry significant geopolitical benefits by reducing allies’ dependence on nations such as Russia for fuel.
“Today’s vote starts us down the path to a new era of energy security, saving consumers billions and creating jobs across the country,” Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. “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.”
But the White House has in recent days reiterated its opposition to the legislation and has framed the battle over exports in a broader context, saying Congress essentially should abandon any fossil-fuels legislation and focus instead on renewable power.
“Legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time,” the White House said in a Wednesday 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 to meet America’s energy needs.”
Ending the ban also has bipartisan support in the Senate, though it’s unclear if there is enough backing to override Mr. Obama’s veto. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.