What do Vladimir Putin, Robert Menendez and 10 other members of the U.S. Senate in five different states have in common?

They’re all targets of a massive and expensive media campaign waged by both sides of the debate over the ban on U.S. crude oil exports, in place for 40 years.

“It’s not that surprising when you think of it,” said Bill Loveless, longtime energy journalist who has written columns for USA Today. “The oil producers have been pushing hard on this for several years now, and the push has gotten greater as the production from the shale formations has increased.”

The export ban was instituted during Ford administration, when the country was reeling from the oil embargo enforced by countries in the Middle East, prompting long lines for gasoline.

Fearing that oil was about to reach its worldwide limit, the ban was put in place in 1975 to try to ensure oil produced in the U.S. would stay within the nation’s borders.

But the North American energy landscape has been radically altered through the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, and now the energy industry sees its best shot in years to get rid of the ban.

The looming nuclear agreement with Iran gives oil producers some added momentum, Loveless told Watchdog.org.

“The proponents of lifting the restrictions would say, How is it that Washington would allow Iran to export more oil but not producers in the United States?” Loveless said.

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