No fresh legislation seems required to lift the ban. With US crude and condensates output expected to hit record levels within the next two years, it is hard to argue that they are still in short supply or that the US faces an excessive drain of scarce materials or serious inflationary impact. It is no longer clear the Export Administration Act is applicable to crude. The ban ensures domestic crude oil prices remain below world levels because producers cannot arbitrage the difference. But no such restrictions apply to refined products, so the price paid by US consumers for oil products are linked to world levels. Domestic US refineries pocket the difference, buying cheap domestic crude below global prices while selling their output at international levels. New Jersey Senator Menendez is in our opinion wrong to argue that ending the export ban would result in higher prices for US consumers at the pump. It will not increase prices at all, it is in fact much more likely that the prices of refined products will drop if the US allows crude oil exports in our opinion. The coming year we are likely to see oil producers lobbying intensely to allow exports of crude while refiners will lobby intensely to maintain the ban on crude exports. It will be interesting to see what happens. If we have to bet on this we would put our money on a lifting of the ban during the coming two-three years and it could happen already during 2014 if the Reuters interpretation is correct.
Here is a link to the report quoted above.
It is often easier to remain with the status quo than risk offending someone by making a decision. Considering that many of President Obama's supporters often express antipathy towards the fossil fuel sector, any policy that might lend refiners or producers a benefit is likely to be objected to.
On the other hand the President has to contend with elections in 2014 to both the House and Senate. Any policy that could hand the Democrats a majority in both houses and does not rely on Congressional approval is likely to have a greater chance of being implemented. It is not clear, at least to me, if removing the ban on crude oil exports falls into this category but there is little doubt that such a decision would have profound effects on the global energy market and the arbitrage between WTI and Brent crude oil.
Back to top