Before leaving Washington, D.C. for the holidays, President Obama signed H.R. 2029 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016), which repealed the ban on U.S. exports of crude oil. The repeal occurred just few days before today’s 40th anniversary of President Ford signing the ban into law. According to historical data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, when President Ford picked up his pen in December 1975, crude oil cost $63.48/barrel (in 2015 dollars) compared to less than $37/barrel today.
During the ban’s tenure, the President had discretion to authorize crude oil exports deemed to be in the national interest, and limited exceptions to the ban have existed for decades. In fact, U.S. exports of crude oil dramatically increased in the years right after the ban was enacted.
The U.S. exported more crude oil in 2014 than in any prior year—a total of over 128 million barrels or about 4% of the nearly 3.2 billion barrels that were produced in the U.S. last year.
Under H.R. 2029, the President has authority to ban crude oil exports to countries subject to sanctions, including any country that is a state sponsor of terrorism. The new law also gives the President authority to impose licensing requirements or other restrictions on exports in two other situations. First, restrictions can be imposed for national security reasons. Second, restrictions can be imposed if the export of U.S. crude oil causes a “sustained material oil supply shortage” or sustained oil price increase, either of which then has (or is likely to have) “sustained material adverse employment effects” on the U.S.