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What You Need to Know About the U.S. Lifting a 40 Year Old Ban

Updated from 11:03 a.m. ET with Yergin's comments in a conference call.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Yergin said that Congress and the Obama administration are transitioning on the country's energy strategy, which could lead to cheaper gas prices and more than 1 million new jobs.

Speaking in an interview about a new report by energy research group IHS that said gas prices could tumble as much as 8 cents a gallon while adding nearly 1 million new jobs if the United States lifted its oil export ban, Yergin said he thinks legislators have started to weigh the benefits of lifting the 40-year ban.


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"I think there's a process of change going on, and as so often happens thinking and policy has to catch up with reality, and I think this is kind of the thinking and next year I think is the policy after the election," Yergin, who is IHS vice chairman, said.

Yergin was referring to legislators and policy makers who are reconsidering U.S. standing in the oil and natural gas sector as geopolitical tensions, especially escalation between Ukraine and Russia, increasingly threaten global energy supply and demand.

The report also said that the government would haul revenuestotaling $1.3 trillion from 2016 to 2030, assuming Congress would lift the ban in 2016.

When asked what participants would fail to benefit from a lift on the export ban, Yergin said refiners would stand to lose the most.

"What would be the downsides? There would be some refiners who have benefitted from the very big discounts -- would have less of a discount -- they'd still have a discount," Yergin said.

The report doesn't offer a blueprint for how Congress can maneuver passing a bill to lift the ban, nor does it suggest that overturning the law is certain.

Uncertainties in Ukraine, through which Russia transports its natural gas to the rest of Europe, has forced the eurozone to consider a situation in which Russia completely turns off the gas spigots to force nations to look elsewhere.

While some oil analysts say the backup plan would be to pull gas from partners in the Middle East, it still wouldn't make up for the huge supply from Russia. And while Russia last week cut a deal to supply China with natural gas, it won't completely offset what money would be lost if Russia cut off Europe.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R. Alaska) is one of the more vocal legislators leading the charge to lift oil and natural gas export bans.

She and others have pointed to troubles between Russia and Ukraine as an example of why the United States should lift the oil export ban; however, those geopolitical tensions have more of an effect on the natural gas markets than crude oil.

Murkowski and others want to lift the nat gas ban to provide liquid natural gas to Europe to offset Russian pressures, but oil analysts say it would take some five to 10 years to develop the infrastructure to export LNG, which also costs far more than pipeline transportation.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, appointed by President Obama, last week hinted at his willingness to consider lifting the oil ban, which proved a significant shift in the administration's energy policy rhetoric. Moniz didn't go as far as to say there would be such action, but he did say that U.S. oil production may not be well matched to current refining capacity.

The comment may prove huge as Democrats and Republicans are reconsidering their views on the sector.

"We're still in transition on energy policy in the United States," Yergin said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.

While the IHS report offers a rosy view of what may happen if the country lifts the ban, many steps remain to move the Energy Department and legislators to take action.

>>WATCH: U.S. Natural Gas Can't Offset Any Russian Embargo Disruptions

>>WATCH: Senate's Murkowski Says Lifting Oil Export Ban Won't Cause Volatility

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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