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Congress kills 40-year oil export ban while also boosting solar and wind power

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The U.S. Congress voted on Friday to repeal the 40-year-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil in an energy policy shift sought by Republicans as part of a bipartisan deal that also provided unprecedented tax incentives for wind and solar power.

The Senate, on a 65-33 vote, approved lifting the ban and providing five-year extensions of tax breaks to boost renewable energy development as part of a $1.8 trillion government spending and tax relief bill that President Barack Obama quickly signed into law.

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The House of Representatives passed legislation containing the energy provisions earlier in the day by a 316-113 tally.

The energy deal was hammered out in secret talks among congressional leaders over two weeks.

Senators Lisa Murkowski, a Alaska Republican, and Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico had worked for more than a year to get the deal.

Democrats who backed the deal asserted that its provisions encouraging renewable energy were important for combating global climate change.

“This is the biggest deal for addressing climate change that we are going to see,” Heinrich said in an interview.

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Heinrich said Democrats may not have been able to get a better deal even if they controlled both chambers of Congress, now led by Republicans. Many Republicans have opposed Democratic proposals to address climate change.

Congress, concerned about U.S. dependence on imported oil, imposed the crude oil export ban after the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s that sent gasoline prices soaring and contributed to runaway inflation. Arab members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed the embargo following the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Drillers have said lifting the ban would increase U.S. oil security and give Washington’s allies in Europe and Asia an alternative source of crude beyond OPEC and Russia. The bill could benefit oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp , ConocoPhillips and Chevron .

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Opponents of lifting the export ban said the action would harm the environment and could lead to an increase in fiery derailments of crude-carrying trains.

Due to a global glut in oil supplies, lifting the ban is not expected to lead to significant U.S. export shipments for months or even years, but could give crude producers the increased flexibility they coveted.

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OIL BOOM

Drillers said continuing the ban would choke a boom in shale oil production since 2008 particularly in North Dakota and Texas that has pushed domestic oil prices down from more than $100 a barrel to below $40.

Lifting the ban was “particularly important at a time when our industry is experiencing a period of extreme volatility and uncertainty,” Ryan Lance, chairman and CEO of ConocoPhillips, said in a statement.

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and some others in her party had expressed concern that allowing U.S. oil exports would hurt independent refiners by raising the price of domestic crude to international prices.

Tom O’Malley, executive chairman of refiner PBF Energy, said lifting the ban would lead at least one East Coast refinery to shut down, adding that his refineries in New Jersey and Delaware are less exposed.

“This is a crazy thing to do,” O’Malley said. “Once you lift it, it’s hard to reverse it.”

Democrats in the Senate had secured some protections for independent refiners, allowing them to deduct transportation costs for gasoline and other fuels they make.

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Pelosi on Friday said Democrats walked away with a victory, in the trade of oil exports for environmental goals.

She said the environmental damage from exporting oil would be offset by 10 times because of measures in the bill such as the renewable power tax credits, funding of a parks conservation fund paid for with oil revenues and the elimination of measures that would have dismantled Obama’s clean power rules on power plants.

“Now that we have leveled the playing field, the United States finally has an opportunity to compete and realize our nation’s full potential as a global energy superpower,” said George Baker, head of Producers for American Crude Oil Exports, a group that formed last year to press lawmakers to open the trade.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Anna Driver in Houston and Jarrett Renshaw in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Nicolle Wallace rains hell on GOP: ‘It’s going to take a dead Russian hooker’ before they wake up to Trump criminality

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MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace this week heaped scorn upon her former party for making their minds up about impeaching President Donald Trump seemingly before hearings even started.

"It's going to take a dead Russian hooker at the bottom of the Hudson before Republicans wake up," she said. "They don't care about anything -- and now they also don't care about foreign interference in domestic elections."

Wallace then said that Republicans should be very careful about embracing a precedent in which it is acceptable for presidents to use their office to pressure foreign countries to investigate their political opponents.

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"The View" co-host Meghan McCain exploded after her fellow panelists criticized Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) for signaling he would not support impeachment for President Donald Trump, despite the testimony placing him at the center of an apparent extortion scheme against Ukraine.

The conservative McCain pointed out that independents had lost support for impeachment since hearings began, and she played a clip of Hurd explaining why he didn't believe the evidence supported impeachment -- and her co-hosts wondered if he had heard the testimony.

"I think the point of the show is we live in a world where every panel has a different view," McCain said. "I also lived in Virginia -- Trump MAGA hat people everywhere -- and there are people in this country, and congresspeople like Mike Turner who are not convinced what happened."

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Mar-a-Lago to host event for conspiracy nuts who believed Obama was a secret Muslim

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President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club is hosting an event for a far-right organization that once spread bogus conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama being a secret Muslim.

The Washington Post reports that Trump's prized Florida resort on Saturday night will play host to the Center for Security Policy, a group that believes "mainstream Muslim organizations in the United States are secretly agents of anti-American jihad."

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