With the price of a gallon of gas hovering around $2.12, lawmakers are ambivalent about Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's amendment to lift the ban on exporting U.S. oil, the National Journal
Cruz plans to attach his amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill the Senate is now debating.
"Lifting the ban? I have not made a decision on that yet but I have concerns," said Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins.
Democrats, including Sens. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and New Jersey's Robert Menendez, have come out against the Cruz amendment.
"I don't know. I don't think it's that controversial but maybe I ought to look at it a little more closely," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, a supporter of ending the ban.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been circumspect on the issue. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky are known to support lifting the ban, but have not taken a stance on the Cruz amendment. New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado say they also have not yet formulated positions on the issue, the Journal reported.
The reason for the hesitation may be concern that doing away with the ban could lead to a rise in home heating prices or the cost of gasoline at the pump. Public opinion appears to favor the status quo, according to the Journal.
A Council on Foreign Relations position paper
found that lifting the ban would not raise gasoline prices.
The ban was instituted in 1975
during the Ford administration, after Arab countries beginning in 1973 refused to sell oil to the United States. Nowadays, in part due to new drilling technologies and the shale boom, the U.S. is the world's biggest oil producer, according to Bloomberg
The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade association, along with big oil companies, want the ban lifted. The oil refining industry is against moving away from the export ban presumably because more exports would mean less crude being refined domestically, leading to diminished profits.
Cruz is supported by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Barrasso said, "Oh, I think the time is absolutely right for debate. We should end the ban," the Journal reported.
Cruz said ending the ban would be "good policy."
Asked if his amendment would achieve the 60 votes needed for approval he said, "We shall see," the Journal reported.
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