America’s oil exports are booming — and lifting prices

The resurgence of the oil industry can be traced back to what happened in Congress one day in December 2015.

That’s when lawmakers ended the 40-year ban on U.S. oil exports. Crude pumped in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota could suddenly be shipped overseas.

At the time, a glut of supply was wreaking havoc on the energy industry. Crude eventuallycrashed to $26 a barrel.

But that glut is disappearing, thanks in part to booming oil exports from the United States. Crude that was once trapped inside the country is now going to Europe, Latin America and even China.

The United States exported a record 1.7 million barrels of oil per day in October 2017, according to the most recent stats from the Energy Information Administration. That’s four times as much as in 2015, when federal law prohibited shipping oil to most places except Canada.

“What happened is pretty dramatic,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at the Oil Price Information Service. “It basically drained the U.S.”

The U.S. oil inventory — the crude that’s been pumped out of the ground but not yet sold — has dropped 15% over the past year, according to the EIA. Stockpiles have shrunk 10 weeks in a row, and are the smallest since February 2015.

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