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US House panel passes bill to repeal oil export ban

[WASHINGTON] A US House of Representatives subcommittee passed a bill on Thursday to repeal the US ban on oil exports, providing momentum in the chamber for overturning the 40-year old trade restriction.

The House Energy and Power subcommittee passed the bill by a voice count. The legislation, sponsored by Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas, is expected to be voted on by the full Energy and Commerce committee next week.

Passage by the full panel would set it up for a wider vote by the Republican-led House, where it is expected to pass. The measure, however, still faces an uphill battle in the US Senate.

Barton said the energy landscape has changed since 1975 and repealing the ban would provide jobs and help allies diversify their oil supplies.

Representative Frank Pallone, a New Jersey Democrat, said repealing the ban would lead to a "significant pay day for oil producers," but it was less certain it would benefit consumers and it would put oil refinery jobs in jeopardy.

The bill has 123 co-sponsors in the 435-member House, with only 14 Democrats signing on.

But backers of a similar bill in the Senate including Senators Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, need to garner more support from Democrats.

A similar bill passed the Senate energy panel this summer, but no Democrats voted for the legislation in the committee. Although Republicans also lead the Senate, the measure would need support from at least six Democrats to reach the 60 needed to pass that chamber.


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