On January 5, 2015 9:16 am
The decision by president Barack Obama to open the door to US oil exportsseeped out of Washington in a low-key manner last week, but the impact could be as explosive as a New Year’s Eve firework display.
The ban – imposed after the Middle East oil embargoes in the 1970s – has made it close to impossible to ship abroad the fruits of America’s shale bonanza. It also long looked wrong-headed in the home of free trade.
The US department of commerce quietly overturned the four-decade-old policy by saying it had started to approve a backlog of requests to sell processed light oil to foreign buyers. The issue is tremendously sensitive, which is possibly why the announcement came out at a time of year when most policymakers were still at home enjoying the Christmas holidays with their families.
Many manufacturers and many domestic consumers are totally opposed to domestic oil or gas production being exported, on the grounds that it could bring an end to cheaper local energy supplies and competitive advantages. But prospectors from the shales in Eagle Ford, Texas and Marcellus, Pennsylvania have been campaigning in Washington for a change in the law for some time, their calls growing more urgent now that some face potential financial trouble as the price of oil plunges from $115 per barrel down to $56.