It's Been Illegal to Export Oil From the United States for Nearly 40 Years

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 31 2014 3:17 PM

Did You Know It's Been Illegal to Export Oil From the United States for Nearly 40 Years?

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A refinery near Houston.

Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

Well, I didn't know this: With a few exceptions, it's been against the law to export crude oil from the United States since 1975. The long-running ban is in the news because an oil tanker left Texas for South Korea on Wednesday, marking the first "unrestricted" sale of "unrefined oil" since the '70s. It's the result of a Department of Commerce ruling that oil that has undergone certain types of processing can be sold abroad even though it hasn't been refined in the traditional sense. (The ban allows for the export of processed or refined fuel like gasoline.)

The issue is especially salient right now because a glut of domestic oil:

Until recently, domestic oil production had been declining and exporting oil wasn't a hot issue. All that changed as new techniques for tapping oil from shale formations have sparked an oil boom in Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere. Since the end of 2011, U.S. oil production has jumped by about 48%, to about 8.4 million barrels a day, according federal data.
That has been good news for companies including Enterprise Products Partners LP in Houston, a $47.7 billion company that processes, ships and stores oil and gas. Last summer, the company noticed a troubling trend: ultralight oil flowing from South Texas was flooding the market and pushing down prices.
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The export ban was instituded in order to conserve United States resources amid the oil crises of the 1970s. (Which, as it happens, were triggered in part by war in Israel.)

Ben Mathis-Lilley edits the Slatest. Follow @Slatest on Twitter.

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