More winning: U.S. exports of gas and diesel are on the rise

Here’s some good news that you probably won’t see featured on CNN or the front page of the Washington Post. At least for the folks in the Northeast, you’re probably going to be seeing another dip in gas prices at the pump fairly soon. At the same time, producers are pushing increased levels of exports of both gasoline and diesel to Europe and beyond. (Bloomberg)

The biggest gasoline market in the U.S. is bursting at the seams.

Traders are lining up to export gasoline and diesel from New York Harbor, an area that normally relies on fuel imports from Europe and eastern Canada, shipping data compiled by Bloomberg show.

While at least 6 cargoes that were headed to New York from Europe in January and early February were diverted to the Caribbean or the U.S. Gulf Coast, that wasn’t enough to stem the oversupply building up in terminals along the Eastern Seaboard. Record-high inventories in the region are now pushing prices low enough to turn the typical trade flow on its head.

The free market is a wonderful thing and in the oil and gas industry it’s one of those few places where the normal rules of cause-and-effect still work fairly well without too heavy of a thumb on the scale from Uncle Sam. The refineries have been working at near capacity levels and we actually have a glut of these products backing up in New York, one of the nations chief export locations. Why is this good news? There are a couple reasons.

First of all, the aforementioned supply and demand laws mean that there is downward pressure on the price of gasoline so you may be experiencing a bit of additional benefit when you go to fill up the tank. That applies to commercial operations as well, so when their transportation costs go down, their overhead is decreased and prices for other goods and services may similarly decrease. But at the same time we are forcing more product overseas and strengthening our position as we compete with other exporters in Russia and the Middle East.

Don’t expect it to last for too long however. That Bloomberg headline stands in sharp contrast to this story from MarketWatch which predicts that the next leg in the oil bull market is just around the corner.

Oil prices may soon head upward, breaking out of the tight range in which they’ve traded lately, a top energy analyst said Monday.

Speaking at the S&P Platts London Oil & Energy Forum on Monday, PIRA Energy’s Gary Ross said the bull market for oil is about to return, potentially sending prices as high as $60 a barrel in the coming weeks.

“We think the markets have consolidated enough and that the next, smaller leg in the bull market is about to occur,” said Ross. “We are actually quite [upbeat] on prices, particularly when the April contract becomes the front-runner later this week.”

There may seem like something of a disconnect between these two stories but it’s actually just capitalism in action. We saw that in 2015 and 2016 when American production rose to the point where prices were driven down to a level where oil production was no longer profitable. The rig count went down and there was a definite lull in American production. The market just had to wait it out for a while until supplies stabilized, bringing us to the levels we’ve seen over the past quarter. But as the high levels of production continue that same effect may come around again.

None of this is bad news for consumers or for the American government. If you’re going to have a problem, too much production capacity is the problem you want to have. True, it can result in some sporadic dips in employment but they tend to be short-term and as long as we remain a dominant factor in the global oil and gas industry, things are on an upward trend.