Decades-Old Export Ban Threatens U.S. Oil Production

CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 25: Oil rigs extract petroleum as the price of crude oil rises to nearly $120 per barrel, prompting oil companies to reopen numerous wells across the nation that were considered tapped out and unprofitable decades ago when oil sold for one-fifth the price or less, on April 25, 2008 in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California. Many of the old unprofitable wells, known as 'stripper wells', are located in urban areas where home owners are often outraged by the noise, smell, and possible environmental hazards associated with living so close to renewed oil drilling. Since homeowners usually do not own the mineral rights under their land, oil firms can drill at an angle to go under homes regardless of the desires of residents. Using expensive new technology and drilling techniques, California producers have reversed a long decline of about 5 percent annually with an increased crude flow of about 2 1/2 million barrels in 2007 for the first time in years.  (National Journal)

The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that the U.S. ban on crude oil exports could act as a brake on increasing domestic production, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

"The growing volumes of light tight oil that cannot leave North America are increasingly posing a challenge to industry, putting the spotlight on the U.S. crude oil export ban," the agency said in a monthly report on oil markets.

Refined petroleum products are not subject to the same export limitations, and U.S. refineries are working double time to process incoming shipments of crude oil to ready them for transport abroad. But domestic output shows no sign of slowing and is on pace to overwhelm coastal refineries if the ban remains in effect, with IEA forecasting that in 2014 oil production in the U.S. will accelerate to 780,000 barrels per day.

Strong demand for oil at home and abroad, alongside a surge in U.S. oil production resulting from shale-oil exploration, has put pressure on lawmakers and the Obama administration in recent months to lift the restrictions on crude exports.