Feb 6, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The new normal for crude oil exports

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Expand chart
Data: EIA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The latest Energy Information Administration weekly data shows that U.S. crude oil exports have averaged above — usually well above — 3 million barrels per day for 12 consecutive weeks.

Why it matters: The weekly data that runs through the end of January is a sign that 3 million-plus is the new normal for U.S. crude exports.

  • The growth has been enabled by booming shale production that produces light oil that many refineries are not optimized to run.
  • That has created a spillover effect as companies are building new pipeline and port infrastructure to handle the rise.

The intrigue: Politically, it raises the stakes of the White House race. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have both called for ending U.S. oil exports as part of their climate platforms.

Worth noting: The weekly data is noisy, but on a multiweek basis it is consistent with more complete monthly data, which arrives after a lag.

  • Exports averaged over 3 million barrels per day in November, the most recent period in the monthly tallies, as well as October and September.

Flashback: Legislation to remove heavy export restrictions was enacted at the end of 2015.

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