Graphics by The New York Times
While immediate action isn't expected in Washington on oil exports, the U.S. is already sending some oil and refined petroleum products to foreign buyers.
Refined products are not restricted, and about 1.9 million barrels a day of gasoline and distillates were being exported in the week ended Feb. 21, according to the latest government data. That is seen as a boon for U.S. refineries, which were producing 15.2 million barrels a day, up from 14.4 million at the same time last year.
Another exception from the export rule is the shipment of oil to Canada, which is permitted. About 200,000 barrels a day of U.S. crude oil was being shipped directly to Canada, as of last November.
"That's sort of a modern record," said Edward Morse, global head of commodity research at Citigroup. "It's conceivable we export as much as 400,000 a day to Canada by the end of the year," he said. The oil being sent across the northern border is processed at refineries in eastern Canada, and some of it is shipped back to the U.S. as fuel, he said.
Understandably independent refiners oppose lifting the ban on exports, arguing it will drive up prices. Valero was the first major company to speak out against lifting the ban, and it is one of the companies that has received permission to sell oil to Canada, shipping it to its own Quebec refinery.