WASHINGTON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Congress is set to avoid a U.S. government shutdown after reaching a broad financial deal that would also lift a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
Congressional leaders reached a deal on Tuesday pairing a $1.1 trillion spending bill with a separate measure that revives a series of expired tax breaks. The spending bill that would fund the government through September 2016 has not been signed, but a stopgap bill to avoid a shutdown is expected to be passed on Wednesday, which will fund the government until Dec. 22 so Congress can consider the year-long measure.
The fiscal agreement would end the U.S. crude oil export ban, enacted in the 1970s in response to an export embargo to the United States enforced by Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. With U.S. oil production now rivaling that of Saudi Arabia, supporters of lifting the ban said U.S. policy should be updated to reflect the new energy landscape.
"We have the best technology, the best oil and over time we will drive out Russian oil, we will drive out Saudi, Iranian," Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas told Bloomberg. "It puts the United States in the driver's seat of energy policy worldwide. It is a huge victory."
Detractors argue it would lead to more hydraulic fracturing, the controversial drilling practice behind the increase in shale oil production, and potentially lead to more crude oil carried on North American rail systems. The increase in oil production is more than the current network of pipelines can handle, forcing energy companies to use rail to take up the slack. A string of fatal rail accidents in recent years involved trains carrying crude oil.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon told Bloomberg lifting the export ban was a "huge mistake" that "is a windfall for big oil at the expense of working Americans and our planet."
Similar efforts to reverse the ban have been met with a veto threat from U.S. President Barack Obama. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration continues to stand against legislative efforts to erase the ban.
As crude oil prices reach six-year lows, a report from the Congressional Budget Office finds authorizing U.S. crude oil exports could increase the price of U.S. crude oil by around $2.50 per barrel during a period ending in 2025. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service, however, found some overseas refineries aren't designed to handle the lighter oils from the United States.
Daniel J. Graeber contributed to this report.