In December, Congress lifted a ban on the export of U.S. crude oil, and the first shipment of crude — fracked from the oilfields of South Texas — is sailing out of Corpus Christi.
But for now, many analysts don't expect a large amount of American crude to be exported. The Brent selling price overseas is as low as the West Texas Intermediate price in the U.S. market. Both reflect a world awash in crude oil.
"The oil market outside the United States is glutted," said Bob McNally of the Rapidan Group consultancy. "I mean, it is full. And storage is filling up everywhere outside of the United States."
Longer term, McNally predicts U.S. drillers will benefit from being able to export. When oil production booms again, there won't be a domestic bottleneck when American refineries max out.
When it comes to carbon emissions, opponents of exports argue the policy encourages more drilling. But the increase in American supply may simply push out crude drilled elsewhere.
"If more oil comes out of America, it may well displace oil coming from somewhere else that's produced under less favorable environmental conditions," said economist Alan Krupnick of the think tank Resources for the Future.