U.S. Reverses Decades of Oil-Export Limits With Obama's Backing

President signs bill to end 40-year old trade restrictions

Congress approves repeal as provision in spending legislation

by Brian Wingfield

With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama on Friday ended 40 years of U.S. crude oil export limits by signing off on a repeal passed by Congress earlier in the day.

The restrictions lift immediately under a provision in the spending and tax package that the president signed into law. Congressional leaders earlier in the week reached an agreement to end the trade restrictions, established during U.S. oil shortages in the 1970s, as part of a grand bargain that includes tax breaks for renewable-energy companies and refiners.

“I don’t doubt you’ll see some exports next year,” ConocoPhillips Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said in a telephone interview after the Senate vote. “We’re pretty excited about it, but we’ve also got to get the infrastructure” in place.

Repeal of the crude-export restrictions reverses four decades of a policy that has defined the nation’s relations with the rest of the world. Without the trade limits, the U.S. -- now the world’s largest oil and gas producer -- is free to export its crude, as it already does with refined products including gasoline. The U.S. Senate passed the bill with a vote of 65-33 after the House approved the measure 316-113 hours earlier.

Oil producers including ConocoPhillips and Continental Resources Inc. had lobbied in favor of repeal, which American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard described in a statement as “a historic moment in our energy renaissance.”
While the law allows these and other producers to ship their crude abroad, it may also lure investment to the U.S. from foreign oil companies that want to be able to export oil for consumption in their home countries, according to Scot Anderson, global head of the energy natural resources group at law firm Hogan Lovells in Denver.

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