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U.S. moves closer to allowing crude oil exports

A Senate panel has approved energy legislation that would lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports and open some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.
A U.S. Senate committee has voted in favour of lifting the 40-year-old ban on crude exports from the U.S. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

A Senate panel has approved energy legislation that would lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports and open some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration.

Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, chairman of the panel, championed the plan to lift the restrictions. It passed by a party-line vote of 12-10.

Murkowski said lifting the ban would turn the U.S. into an energy superpower.

Democrat Maria Cantwell of Washington, who opposes lifting the ban, describes the votes as an important first step in a long journey.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an array of energy legislation on Thursday. Lawmakers wanted to move the energy legislation out of committee before the August recess.

Since the 1970s oil crisis, the U.S. has had a ban of shipping exports of crude oil outside of North America. So while oil can cross the Canadian and Mexican border for processing or other trade, it cannot be shipped to Europe or Asia without a special permit.

Oil producers in the Bakken shale are particularly interested in exporting, as the U.S. has a large glut of light crude from shale.

The vote comes a day after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner for the first time voiced his support for lifting the domestic oil export ban, which experts said signaled momentum for an overhaul of 40-year-old energy policy.

With files from Reuters

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