The head of the International Energy Agency on Tuesday urged the United States to decide quickly to allow crude exports, or the industry will find ways to get around restrictions.
The Export Administration Act of 1979 banned the sale of U.S. crude abroad, except to Canada and Mexico, but the shale energy boom has since turned the North American energy market upside down in just a few years.
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U.S. oil production is now rising steeply, having been falling for decades, prompting some to say shipments abroad should be considered.
"The answers have to be given by the U.S. government. I hope they are going to give the answers soon," IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said at a news conference, asked to comment on the prospect of crude exports.
"This issue is on the table. I think it has to be addressed because if there are no export licenses for crude, then the industry will find different ways, as they are looking for now already with processed, half-processsed products, things like that."
Earlier this year, she wrote in the Financial Times that laws restricting exports of U.S. crude oil could cap the recent surge in domestic output.
The IEA, which advises the United States and 27 other industrialized countries, earlier on Tuesday forecast rising U.S. production will help meet most of the world's new oil demand in the next five years, leaving little room for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to lift supplies.
An official at oil pricing agency Platts, Jorge Montepeque, said he thought the United States would retain a less central role in setting oil price benchmarks than in the past while restrictions on crude exports remain.
European oil benchmark Brent is widely seen as the standard global oil price, having displaced than the U.S. benchmark.
(Reporting by Alex Lawler; Editing by Anthony Barker)