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It could be called the Great Oil Swap. With the world awash in oil, proposals again are being floated in Washington to ''swap'' Alaskan crude for Mexican oil. Japan would wind up in the middle of this arrangement: It would buy Alaskan oil from the US, which would turn around and buy Mexican oil from Mexico. The benefits would be twofold: lower transportation costs for oil to Japan and the US, and a lower US trade deficit with Japan.

The idea isn't new. But it's run into roadblocks before. One hitch has been public opinion. But observers say as prices at the gas pump fall, oil is becoming less of an issue with folks back home. The second hitch lies in federal law, which prohibits the export of Alaska's ''black gold.''

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But the Export Administration Act is up for renewal this year. Some legislators say support exists that would allow them to alter the law to allow limited exports of Alaskan oil.

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