September 30, 2015 / 4:48 PM / 4 years ago

White House does not support Senate efforts to lift oil export ban

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House does not support Senate legislation to lift the 40-year-old ban on oil exports despite a provision allowing the president to halt exports if he deemed them not in the interests of national security, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

“The administration does not support efforts to move this bill,” White House spokesman Frank Benenati said.

The Senate banking committee is slated to vote on Thursday on a bill sponsored by Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from the oil-producing state of North Dakota, to lift the ban on crude exports. It contains a provision giving the president the power to shut down exports.

Legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time, Benenati said. Other Obama administration officials have said it is premature to consider lifting the ban because, despite the drilling boom that has reduced oil imports, the United States still imports millions of barrels per day of crude.

Oil producers say the domestic drilling boom will eventually be choked if the trade restriction, which Congress passed in 1975 after the Arab oil embargo, is not lifted.

Opponents to lifting the ban say it could hurt employment in oil refining and shipbuilding and damage the environment.

“Congress should be focusing on meeting America’s clean energy needs and our transition to a low-carbon economy,” Benenati said, referring to steps aimed at slowing climate change.

The House of Representatives energy committee passed a similar bill earlier this month to lift the trade restriction that Congress passed in 1975 after the embargo sparked fears of oil shortages. That bill also contains language allowing the president to halt exports when he deemed it to be in the interest of national security.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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