Oil Export Inclusion Unlikely to Sink Omnibus, Analysts Say

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By Ari Natter

Dec. 11 — The White House would likely sign an omnibus bill that includes a provision to end the 40-year ban on crude oil exports, analysts said Dec. 11, a day after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters the Obama administration was involved in negotiations over the issue.

In a note to clients, Washington-based ClearView Energy Partners said President Barack Obama would be unlikely to oppose a year-end omnibus spending package that includes crude oil exports, particularly if other provisions of the bill fulfill significant Democratic Party objectives. The information is attributed to “sources.”

Joseph P. McMonigle, a senior energy analyst at Potomac Research Group, also agreed that allowing oil exports in the omnibus would be unlikely to garner a veto.

“I think if there was a deal, there is zero possibility the White House would veto the bill on crude oil exports alone,” McMonigle, who formerly served as the Energy Department's chief of staff during the George W. Bush administration, told Bloomberg BNA. “Their silence has been more of an indication they are looking for a deal.”

A White House spokesman did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Ending the ban, which was put in place in 1975 after gasoline prices spiked in the wake of the Arab oil embargo, is a top priority for major oil producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Pioneer Natural Resources Co. that want to sell their oil for a greater price on the world market.

Republicans have championed ending the ban. Democrats, in exchange for agreeing to do that, are seeking concessions that include a long-term extension of the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (232 ECR, 12/3/15).

White House Involvement

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol Dec. 10, Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said the White House has been involved in congressional negotiations over using the omnibus spending bill to end the ban.

“The White House is a major negotiator when it comes to this oil deal, and they are looking for that,” Durbin said. “They are talking, waiting to see what the package looks like.”

Asked about Durbin's remarks Dec. 11, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not directly answer.

“The negotiations are taking place between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill,” Earnest said. “This is—passing a budget is a congressional responsibility and they're the ones who are—are conducting the negotiations. The White House, of course, is in the loop. We've been in touch with all parties sitting around the table.”

Meanwhile, ClearView Energy Partners remained pessimistic the measure would end up being included in the government funding measure, citing “what appears to be a widening gap” in congressional negotiations over the measure.

The White House had threatened to veto stand-alone legislation (H.R. 702) lifting the ban that passed the House in October, saying it “is not needed at this time” (194 ECR, 10/7/15).

To contact the reporter on this story: Ari Natter in Washington at anatter@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com