The United States is not currently considering a ban or restrictions on oil products exports, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on Friday.
With WTI falling below $80 per barrel earlier on Friday morning, the pressure for such moves is cooling, even as product inventories in the United States continue to fall.
Total motor gasoline inventories in the United States fell another 1.6 million barrels during the week ending September 16, and now sit 5% below the five-year average this time of year. Distillate inventories-which include diesel fuel-rose during the week, but are 18% below the five-year average.
Gasoline prices have trended down in recent months, although the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline rose on Friday to $3.689, according to AAA, up from $3.684 on Thursday.
Last month, the Energy Secretary warned U.S. refiners that if they failed to build inventories of crude oil products, the government would be forced to employ emergency measures or additional federal requirements to address fuel exports, with gasoline and distillate inventories at low levels in the Northeast region. Meanwhile, U.S. refined products exports were exceptionally high.
Those emergency actions could be avoided, Granholm explained, by prioritizing a buildup of refined product inventories-something that only could be achieved by refiners self-regulating how much product is supplied to buyers outside the United States.
Since that time, total gasoline inventories in the United States have actually fallen by 1 million barrels. Distillate inventories, on the other hand, have risen by 5.7 million barrels, according to an Oilprice analysis of EIA Weekly Petroleum Status inventory data.
Despite gasoline inventories falling, Granholm said there were no current plans to employ those emergency measures.
"Restrictions are not being considered at this time," Granholm said.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group. More