Friday, December 18, 2015

US oil exports could level crude playing field

It has taken 40 years but US politicians finally found the timing, inclination and effort required to get rid of a legislative relic dating back to the Arab oil embargo of 1975 – a ban on exporting the country's crude oil that has plagued the industry for so long for reasons that no longer seem relevant.

Late on Friday, when news of the lifting of the ban arrived, the Oilholic could scarcely believe it. As recently as July 2014, this blogger opined in a Forbes column that movement on this front was highly unlikely until after the US Presidential election. However, in this instance, one is both pleasantly surprised as well as glad to have been proved wrong.

US producers, including independent upstarts behind the country’s shale bonanza, would now be able to sell their domestically produced barrels out in the international market competing with those already having to contend with a global supply glut.

Let's not kid ourselves, lifting of the ban would not necessarily lead to a significant spike in US oil exports over the short-term. However, it at least levels the playing field for the country’s producers should they want to compete on the global markets. It is also price positive for WTI as a crude benchmark leading it to compete better and achieve parity (at the very least) with global benchmarks in the spirit of free market competition.

Of course, in keeping with the shenanigans long associated with political circles in Washington DC, lifting of the ban came as part of a $1.1 trillion spending bill approved by the Senate that will fund the government until 2016.

The spending bill also includes tax breaks for US solar and wind power, and a pledge by both errant Republicans and Democrats not to derail a $500 million grant to the UN Green Climate Fund.

No matter what the political trade-offs were like, they are certainly worth it if the reward is the end of an unnecessary and redundant ban. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Alaska Pipeline, Brooks Range, USA © Michael S. Quinton / National Geographic

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