U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday laid out a list of demands they seek before making any deal to end the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports in the wide-ranging government funding bill.
With oil prices falling to nearly seven-year lows of less than $40 a barrel, producers are desperate to open crude sales to global markets. They say lifting the ban would give U.S. allies an alternative to Russia and OPEC countries for oil, breathe life into the drilling industry, and increase U.S. energy security.
Opponents say it would hurt jobs at refineries, raise the amount of oil carried by trains, which have suffered a slew of recent accidents while carrying crude, and hurt the environment.
"I've heard a long list, a long list of things," Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told reporters.
Durbin said a deal to end the ban on the trade restriction is something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans "are salivating over."
Democrats want measures in return for their support, including extending tax credits for wind and solar power for 10 years, or make them permanent. Granting that could alienate Republicans in states that produce or rely on coal.
Democrats also want the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which maintains national parks with revenues from oil operations, reauthorized and fully funded.
Lifting the ban on crude exports could be a $20 billion to $30 billion "windfall" per year for oil companies, Durbin said.
"There are things that the oil industry ... should be willing to help us pay for in this country," Durbin said.
Democrats also want assurances that Congress will support U.S. contributions to the U.N. Green Climate Fund, which some Republicans, including John Barrasso of Wyoming, call a "slush fund."
The White House says it opposes lifting the ban and urged Republicans to focus on funding the government without attaching unrelated measures to bill.
Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, said Democrats keep asking for more items. "The other side has got to quit asking for more stuff all the time. Lifting the ban should be done "on its own merits."
In the House, Representative Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, told reporters lifting the ban is not where the party wants to go, but that if there were substantial agreements by Republicans, it might be worth it.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, said Democratic demands were sky-high. "They want the sun and the moon."
(By Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Alan Crosby)