Last week, reports surfaced that the Commerce Department has signed off on exports of an ultralight form of minimally processed crude oil. The move sparked speculation within the energy industry that the change in policy could signal a broader shift in U.S. crude-oil exports, which have been subject to a ban dating back to the 1970s Arab oil embargo.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest responded to the speculation by saying that the reclassification does not signal a new era of exports. And energy analysts are divided over whether the Commerce Department's decision will leave export policy relatively untouched or open the door to major changes in existing law down the line.
What's the significance of the latest crude-export news? Has the Obama administration taken a major step toward lifting or at least loosening the decades-old crude-export ban? Will the move provide political cover for the administration to continue to encourage further exports without fanfare? Or are substantial policy changes unlikely? How does this stand to affect energy markets at home and abroad? What are the benefits, and what are the risks?
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