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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nexstar) — The oil industry — and the millions of businesses that depend upon it — could have a long and bumpy road to recovery.

Industry experts told lawmakers on Tuesday that — optimistically — it could be more than a year until the demand for oil, gas and gasoline returns to normal.

That means oil prices are likely to be depressed for at least that long.

It’s a crushing blow to the industry and its workers, who were riding high just a few months ago.

Before the pandemic, David Turk with the International Energy Agency, says oil was expected to have a great year.

“We had predicted at 2% increase,” says Turk. “Now we are looking at a 20% decrease. This is almost $400 billion dollars.”

While Turk says the road to recovery won’t be easy, Stephen Nalley with the U.S. Energy Information Administration says good news is that the worst has already happened.

But EIA predicts the energy industry won’t fully recover for over a year, and that’s the optimistic view.

Frank Macchiarola with the American Petroleum Institute says if Congress wants to help, they should focus on safely and swiftly re-opening the economy.

But until that happens, Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines says oil is a top priority as senators start to hash out what to include in the next round of coronavirus relief.

“The quicker we can get people back safely to work, back to traveling, back to a normal day to day routine, the better it will be for our industries across the board,’ says Daines.