Beginning this month, the world's largest economy is doing something it hasn't done in 40 years: shipping supplies of U.S. crude oil to international markets. So will globally traded domestic crude translate into higher gas prices at home?
"Absolutely," said Tyson Slocum, energy director at the Washington-based consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen. Despite oil prices slumping to their lowest levels in 12 years, Slocum told CNBC's "On the Money" that he expects the "(oil) market will tighten later this year."
He's far from the only one who thinks that way. Last week, Goldman Sachs said in a research note that it expects oil to rebound back above $40 by midyear.
And Slocum's remarks echo the concerns voiced by supporters of the four decade law that prohibited U.S. oil sales abroad, who have argued that exporting crude would limit domestic supplies, thereby driving up prices.
Slocum, however, said "we're not going to see the impact right away, because both the domestic and international oil market is saturated with excess oil and storage."
During the height of the 1970's oil crisis, President Gerald Ford and Congress banned US crude oil exports. That rule was in place until President Obama signed a bill less than a month ago that abolished the ban.
With the sales block lifted, Slocum says, American oil producers will no longer be "burdened by having to only sell their oil to US refiners."
Slocum says producers will be "free to move very large volumes of US-made oil out of the United States," and that oil sales to Europe and China have already begun. He says "that will accelerate and what that's going to do is raise U.S. benchmark oil prices, which in turn is going to increase the price at the pump."