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Rep. Ed Whitfield, center

Congressional Republican leaders said Thursday their conference isn’t near a consensus on allowing more crude exports from the United States.

“I don’t think there is a solid Republican position on this right now,” Rep. John Shimkus, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during an event hosted by Politico.

Rep. Joe Barton said at the same event, “I can debate either side of that.”

“From a pure economic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to have an export ban; let’s eliminate it, and if you are a market-based person, do that,” Barton said. He’s a Texas Republican and former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Barton chairs the energy task force of the conservative Republican Study Committee and said the export debate is alive within the group, the National Journal said.

As reported this week, the Department of Commerce granted two licenses to export crude to the UK in January and two more for exports to Italy.

The permits for shipments to the UK are the first since at least 2000 “and the first to any European country since 2008, according to data from the [the Bureau of Industry and Security],” Reuters said.

The two approved UK permits were for shipments with a total maximum value of $1.8 billion, while those to Italy were valued at $3.12 billion.

About 90% of the 120 export licenses approved since January 2013 were for sales to Canada, according to the report.

The permits for overseas shipments come amid debate in Washington about lifting the crude export ban that’s been in place since the Arab oil embargo during the 1970s.

U.S. oil production, with growth driven by fracking at shale sites across the country, is at a 25-year high.

Pro-export Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said last week the Commerce Department has the authority to relax export limits. She said she’ll introduce legislation if the administration doesn’t act.

But on Thursday, Rep. Barton said: “We are going to put out a series of position papers and also some bills, maybe a comprehensive bill, and … one of the things that we are debating is whether to support the end of the ban.”

Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said earlier this week that while his panel’s focus is on exports of natural-gas right now, oil exports are on the horizon, according to the National Journal.

“I do think the export of crude oil will be an issue that is going to be more and more discussed and we’re going to be focused on,” Whitfield said.

“When the time comes, we just want a public debate about it,” Whitfield said.