Since the 1970s, the US has largely banned the exporting of unrefined oil. But the rules put in place after that decade's Arab oil embargo are changing: The Commerce Department is allowing two companies to export condensate, a form of ultralight oil that can be turned into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel, the Wall Street Journal reports. While initial shipments, which could start as soon as August, are likely to be small, the rulings—not yet publicly announced—could open the way for other companies to make similar exporting requests.
The decision comes as shale formations are providing huge amounts of domestic ultralight oil, for which prices have plummeted. Companies say they can sell it for more abroad, the Journal notes. The rule change acts by broadening the definition of "refined" condensate, Quartz reports; US companies are already allowed to ship refined fuel. As for crude oil exports, "there has been no change in policy," the Commerce Department says. But the decision could have a big impact worldwide, Quartz notes, with oil prices potentially dropping. (Read more oil stories.)