UPDATE 2-U.S. on verge of lifting 40-year oil export ban

Wed Dec 16, 2015 12:38pm EST
 
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(Adds background on oil companies, refiners, solar industry; updates market reaction)

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON Dec 16 (Reuters) - The United States appears on the brink of ending a four-decade ban on most exports of crude oil, which would end a years-long fight brought about by a boom in domestic shale output that contributed to a supply glut and depressed prices.

The measure is part of a sprawling deal wrapped up by congressional leaders late on Tuesday to keep the U.S. government open through September. The $1.15 trillion spending bill, negotiated in secret talks over the last two weeks, would be difficult for President Barack Obama to veto despite his opposition to ending the oil export ban.

In a partial victory to Obama and other Democrats, the spending bill also includes granting tax incentives to boost wind and solar development, according to lawmakers involved in the talks. Shares of solar companies rose sharply.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers will meet separately on Wednesday to discuss the bill and hope to vote on it as soon as Friday.

Allowing oil exports would be a win for the U.S. oil industry and Republicans, who had argued the ban was a relic of the 1970s Arab oil embargo.

Exploration and production companies, many saddled with billions in debt and struggling to avoid bankruptcy after a 60 percent slide in oil prices forced them to halt most new drilling, had viewed exports as a lifeline of sorts.

But with U.S. output now falling as oil prices slump to seven-year lows, traders say foreign buyers may not materialize in a glutted global market.   Continued...