For the last twelve months, we read off and on in the news that there is momentum to lift the 1970s-era ban on the export of crude oil. The Wall Street Journal reported a year ago that the oil industry is “gearing up” to remove the U.S. ban. One year later, several pieces of legislation have been introduced to permit the export of domestic crude oil. It is possible that the U.S. House of Representatives may vote on legislation in the next few weeks.
Oil companies have been lobbying Congress over this past year that the exportation of our domestic produced crude would stimulate the economy and streamline production. It is mainly the refinery industry that is against lifting the ban. In order to understand this debate, the fact that refined products can be exported is crucial to the analysis. Crude oil can only be exported in limited circumstances such as with a special license from the U.S. government and in limited amounts from the Alaskan North Slope production if exported on a U.S. flag vessel.