Industry Adds to Push for Oil Exports

Advocates say exporting American crude oil would boost the economy and also shore up allies' energy security, especially in Europe.

An oil refinery processes crude June 2, 2010, in Pascagoula, Miss. Oil producers hope to lift tight restrictions on crude exports, which have been in place since 1975.

Oil producers hope to lift tight restrictions on crude exports, which have been in place since 1975.

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“You can lease the tankers, you can reverse the pipelines, you don’t have to convert the crude oil to anything,” Sullivan says. “One of the quickest things we can do now is ship light, sweet crude, for which many European refineries are set up, and start to push the Russians back – at least give the threat that we have this immediate or close-to-immediate response to make by exporting light, sweet crude.”


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Exports, though, face opposition from environmental groups, which argue it would only encourage more drilling and expose the planet to more oil spills. Exports are also opposed by some refineries, which hope to avoid paying more for domestic crude oil.

“These guys make massive profits – are they kidding?” Sullivan says of the refineries. 


The U.S. has granted an exception permitting exports to Canada. Another application was filed in January to allow exports to Germany. A wholesale end to the export restrictions this year, though, is unlikely, experts say.

Instead, there may be some “incremental progress,” such as approving oil "swaps" with other nations, or the export of a form of crude known as "condensate," Bordoff says.

“2014 will be a year of learning about the issue and a year of study, and then testing the waters a bit,” he says.


Corrected on April 2, 2014: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the U.S. had approved exports of American oil to Italy and the United Kingdom. While the U.S. has imported foreign oil that it then exported to those two nations, it has not approved exports of American oil to Italy or the U.K.