How will a lift of the ban on crude oil exports change the energy landscape in the United States? On today's The Cutting Edge, E&E Daily reporter Manuel Quiñones discusses congressional action this week on the omnibus and tax cut package.
Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to The Cutting Edge, major moves on energy during Congress' year-end push. E&E Daily's Manuel Quiñones is here with the latest on the omnibus and tax extender package. Manuel, this morning the House passed the omnibus deal. It's a major win for those who support crude oil exports. How did the votes break down? Any surprises?
Manuel Quiñones: Not really. It was a very comfortable vote. I guess that could be one surprise for folks yesterday wondering whether this would pass and some leaders expressing concerns about whether it would pass, but we saw a pretty comfortable margin well above 300 votes. Some very tough, fiscal conservatives voted against it as we were expecting. Some people who wanted to see more riders, especially related to coal, Clean Power Plan and those Obama administration issues voted against it, but not as many as we thought yesterday could dump the deal because of it. A lot of people went for the yes.
Monica Trauzzi: So the fact that lifting the ban on crude oil experts made it in, it's pretty significant. We've talked about this a lot over the last year, and it's always seemed politically unfeasible, so what happened? How did this get in?
Manuel Quiñones: I think there was a combination of people in both parties, Senator Murkowski said that as more people asked her about it she started seeing, oh, this is not as politically big, huge, lift as we expected it to and then the Democrats started seeing that, hey, lifting the oil export ban might not make that much of a difference in the short run or even in the medium term and we may get a lot in return. So that set off light bulbs in people's heads and it really made it possible. So it's been several months in the making.
Monica Trauzzi: And to that point, this was a major win for the renewable energy folks in the tax extender package. What did they gain, and how did that really become a critical part of the negotiation?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, the Republicans and the oil industry got their ban lifted, but the Democrats and the renewable energy got extensions of renewable tax credits which many Republicans particularly in the House were not in any mood to extend. So there was a quid pro quo, and as we said before, several months ago, a lot of people were saying, 'Oh yeah, this may happen,' but they weren't really seeing it but then in the recent weeks, when the White House was saying, 'Well we oppose oil exports,' but they weren't ruling them out and same thing in the House, we started seeing that this could very well happen. And even though there's people in both sides, people who really did not like the renewable tax credit saying this shouldn't have been in and people who really did not like the exports also saying this shouldn't have been in. The middle of the combined Congress is like OK, this is fine.
Monica Trauzzi: What does this all say about Speaker Ryan and his abilities as a dealmaker?
Manuel Quiñones: Well, we have started to notice real differences. Yesterday, particularly, Wednesday and yesterday, there were a lot of people in his caucus who were ready to revolt. They said we gave everything to the Democrats; all we got back was oil. So you traded the coal industry for oil, you traded all these things, the Waters of the United States rule for oil, we didn't get any of that and we're in the majority, a lot of people were saying. But then they went into meetings with Speaker Ryan and they came out of those meetings smiling a lot more than going in and basically the speaker explained to them the process, explained the give and take, really sold the idea that this is reset, that next year will be different. And a lot of the members who were really hard to please, many of whom were really hard to please in the past appeared to be OK with that, appeared to say, OK, this is the best we could get and things will be different and we talked to him and he understood.
Monica Trauzzi: So you as you mentioned, seemingly, a shift in tone from the White House on the idea of lifting the ban on crude oil exports, is your sense that everyone just really wanted to make a deal happen?
Manuel Quiñones: Oh yeah. Everyone wanted to make a deal happen, and even though the Democrats were saying we're going to ask for the moon and the stars over this and some Republicans were saying, 'Well, we're only not going to give them so much,' it seemed that nobody wanted to shut down the government and people did want to make a deal happen, as my colleague Geof Koss reported. It's been several months in the making and they got it done and it seems like most people on both sides are happy.
Monica Trauzzi: All right, thanks Manuel, good to see you as always.
Manuel Quiñones: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: The Cutting Edge returns in the new year on January 8th, we'll see you then.
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