A boom in U.S. energy production has allowed American energy refiners to sell more fuel abroad than ever before, as products from Gulf Coast refineries can be sold at a fraction of the cost of fuel refined by Europeans from North Sea crude oil.
Federal law prohibits overseas shipments of U.S.-produced oil, but refiners can export petroleum products, including gasoline as well as diesel and jet fuel, The Wall Street Journal reports
"The bottom line is U.S. refiners are pushing product everywhere," Francisco Blanch, head of global commodity research at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told the Journal. "They have a lot to sell."
In July, U.S. refiners shipped a record 3.8 million barrels of products a day, according to data from the Energy Information Administration, the Journal reports. That represents a volume of nearly 65 percent above the 2010 export level.
Part of the trend can be explained primarily by a reduction in demand at home. Drivers in the United States are buying less gasoline despite the falling price of gas — an average $3.35 per gallon now compared to $3.82 a year ago — because of more energy-efficient cars.
"It's a happy confluence of events that our demand has dropped off just as crude oil supplies and demand for products has grown elsewhere," Ed Hirs, an energy economist at the University of Houston, told the Journal.
Increased demand for U.S. exports comes from all corners of the world, including Japan, China, and India as well as Brazil and Venezuela, parts of Africa, and even parts of Europe.
In many cases, the United States is usurping the market share of European refiners who are struggling with high crude costs, the sagging economic climate, and outdated equipment, the Journal reports.
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