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Lifting oil export ban could be long-term game changer

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The end of the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports should have little immediate impact on the U.S. oil industry, but longer term it's likely to help U.S. shale producers and give the United States more clout in a cut-throat, global energy arena.

The United States currently generates about 9.2 million barrels of oil a day, about half of which is shale production. But the U.S. also imported about 7 million barrels a day this year, so with the world awash in crude, there is not likely to be much demand for U.S. exports.

The U.S. is on the verge of ending the restriction, after congressional negotiators late Tuesday included removing the ban in a deal on a $1.15 trillion spending bill, along with such provisions as the extension of tax breaks on solar and wind energy. And while an end to the ban wouldn't have a massive immediate effect on oil markets, it could drastically alter some parts of the domestic and global energy industry in the longer term.

"It's definitely an improvement, but it's not like the be-all and end-all that's going to stop the bleeding in the oil patch," said Andrew Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates. "This is a small thing compared to Iran coming back to the market with a million barrels a day. … This reduces an artificial logistics impediment."