Just because you’ve been doing something for decades, that doesn’t mean that you need to keep doing it. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the roughly forty year old ban we have on crude oil exports, enacted back when the Middle East oil barons decided to kick off an embargo, leading to skyrocketing gas prices and long lines at service stations. Congress seems to slowly be getting the message on this subject, and yesterday the House finally passed a bill to end the ban. (Yahoo News)

A bill to repeal the U.S. oil export ban passed the House of Representatives on Friday, but faces an uncertain future after a veto threat by President Barack Obama.

The bill sponsored by Representative Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, passed the House 261 to 159, failing to reach the 290 votes necessary to overturn a presidential veto.

Only 26 Democrats voted for the bill despite Republicans’ late effort to attract them by adding a measure to provide funds for the Maritime Security Program. The fleet of privately-owned ships brings supplies to U.S. troops and allies abroad.

Just getting a solid majority in the House doesn’t really get us that much closer to the finish line, unfortunately. A matching bill in the Senate was narrowly passed out of the Banking Committee back at the beginning of the month, but Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to be able to get it to the floor for a full vote with enough support to stop a Democrat filibuster. And even if he somehow manages that feat, the President has already signaled that he plans to veto the legislation. There don’t currently seem to be enough votes in either chamber to overcome that barrier.

What are Obama’s reasons for cutting off our nose to spite our face? He’s claiming that he would prefer a bill that “ends billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies and instead investing in wind and solar power and energy efficiency.” In other words, it’s more of the same old, same old. Raise taxes and push the money into government subsidies of technologies which are not yet able to stand on their own, assuming they ever will be. He’s getting support from some Democrats who are arguing that it will hurt American refineries and the jobs associated with them.

The ban was always rather dodgy from the beginning since it wasn’t part of any sort of treaty or direct sanctions on specific countries. It was essentially just a panic move to keep every bit of oil we managed to produce ourselves on our own shores. Unfortunately it didn’t get much opposition since you’d be hard pressed to find a legislator who was willing to say no when people were sitting in gas station lines that stretched around the block. The reality of it, however, was that it was a move which was stepping all over free commerce. Any beneficial effect it had was limited in both nature and duration. Now, of course, the entire global template for oil production, refining and distribution has changed. The United States is nearly drowning in oil and we’re actually having trouble keeping up with the demand on our refineries. And much of Europe would dearly love to have an alternate source which would make them less dependent on Russia and the Middle East.

It’s hard enough to get anything done in the House these days, what with the leadership struggles and all. It would be a shame to see this long overdue measure fail simply because the White House wants to play politics with it.