House panel passes bill to repeal U.S. oil export ban


A bill to repeal the 40-year-old ban on U.S. oil exports easily passed the energy panel in the House of Representatives on Thursday, but the measure faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

The legislation, which passed 31 to 19, is expected to be passed by the full House in coming weeks.

But the bill is not backed by President Barack Obama. The White House said on Wednesday that oil export decisions are made by the Commerce Department.

And a similar bill in the Senate faces an uncertain future because backers need the support of several Democrats to ensure its passage.

Ahead of the vote, Representative Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, cited studies that say freeing exports may lower gasoline prices. He said eliminating the ban would help allies in Europe dependent on Russia for much of their crude.

The domestic oil boom of the last six years has "flipped the script" on the need for the trade restriction, Upton said. (by Timothy Gardner, Reuters)