Wood Mackenzie: Oil exports hinge on U.S. political maneuvering

No action now means fate may rest with next U.S. president.
By Daniel J. Graeber  |  Nov. 11, 2014 at 6:22 AM
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HOUSTON, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- If nothing happens soon, lifting restrictions on crude oil exports will have to wait until after U.S. presidential elections in 2016, Wood Mackenzie says.

U.S. crude oil exports are restricted under legislation enacted in response to the 1970s export embargo from Arab members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. There are no restrictions on certain petroleum products like gasoline and some companies have recently started testing the moratorium with the export of condensate, an ultra light form of oil found in U.S. shale deposits.

Harold York, an analyst of the refining sector at Wood Mackenzie, said condensate exports amount to a de facto ease on the restrictions, though, according to him, there are few "overt calls" from either side of the U.S. political aisle to lift the ban completely.

Last week, Australian company BHP Billiton said it was the one that concluded oil products processed from the Eagle Ford shale play in Texas are legally eligible for exports after thoroughly examining the issues involved.

York said policy makers need to catch up with the industry in order to capitalize on the potential benefits of easing the crude oil export restrictions, which he said would lead to $70 billion in investment spending in the U.S. oil sector and further economic stimulus.

With Republicans moving in control of both chambers of the new Congress in 2015, York said President Barack Obama will need to keep his options open during his last two years in office.

"These drivers will be sustained for the next two years such that if a political accommodation is not reached next year, conventional wisdom suggests the dynamics of an election year in 2016 would likely pause the debate until 2017," York said in his Monday brief.

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