House repeals ban on export of US crude oil
By a bipartisan vote of 261-159, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to remove all restrictions on the export of crude oil from the US.
The export ban has been in place for 40 years, having been enacted in 1975 as a response to the oil embargo by OPEC.
It now goes to the Senate.
Even if it passes, Obama has threatened to veto it. The vote in the House did not reach the 2/3 majority that would be needed to override that veto and it's extremely rare for an override vote to get more support than the original passage. So if Obama keeps his words and vetoes it (assuming it even gets that far), it will not pass.
So why do I bring up a bill that is unlikely to become law?
Because it so neatly shows the cold heart of our economic reality, our economic system. Many of the voices now pushing the vital necessity of selling US oil overseas are the same voices pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline on the grounds that it would reduce US dependence on imported oil. (Which is odd because the oil - tar sands - would be imported from Canada; maybe they think Canada doesn't count as another country because, like Goldie Hawn's character said in the movie "Protocol," "it's kind of attached.")
The point is, that seeming contradiction isn't a contradiction at all. Rather, it reveals that this new move isn't about jobs, it isn't about national security, it isn't about "diplomatic flexibility, it isn't about any of the rest of that crap pushed by its supporters. It's about corporate profit. That is the common thread between supporting Keystone XL and supporting lifting a ban an export of crude: each would serve to advance corporate profit. Because what would the primary domestic economic effect of lifting the ban on exporting oil? It would be to raise the prices of things like gasoline and heating oil.
Which means, at the end of the day, the real result of this bipartisan bill, the real intent of this bipartisan bill, is to increase corporate profit and the environment and our pocketbooks be damned.
I keep emphasizing the bipartisan nature of this vote because it points up the tight limits on what passes for debate about our economy, where both sides splutter on about jobs and inequality but one side argues we need to tinker a little more with our economy and the other side argues we've already tinkered too much.
It's past time, long past time, to realize that we can't tinker, we have to overhaul. Capitalism can effectively exploit resources, but it cannot create sustainability. Capitalism can efficiently use the environment for its own ends, but it cannot protect that environment for the future. Capitalism as an economic system can produce growth, but it cannot produce justice. Not justice of any kind, not social justice, not environmental justice, not political justice, and especially not economic justice.
So over the next couple of weeks I intend to pull out some old proposals of my own to give you some idea of what I think parts of that economic overhaul are going to have to look like. (Assuming I can find them grrr.)
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