Debate grows over whether U.S. should end decades-long ban on oil exports

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Growing debate on whether the U.S. should end a restriction on crude oil exports is setting the table for potential policy changes through Congress or the White House, energy analysts said Monday.

The U.S. has maintained a ban on exporting crude since the 1970s — when the Arab oil embargo crippled supplies and sent prices skyward — save for a small amount that flows north to Canada. But that policy is getting another look as the nation is flush with oil resulting from the shale energy boom.

Though some pieces are falling into place to make a legislative end to the ban more likely -- such as the possibility of oil-patch Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., becoming chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- analysts said the debate is likely to span several years. And some said the call ultimately might come from the Obama administration.

"This discussion is pretty recent and it takes some time to educate the public and policymakers," said Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist with the American Council for Capital Formation.

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