The price of the international oil benchmark, Brent, is up 50% in the last year and gasoline prices are nearing $4 per gallon in some parts of the country. Speculators are increasingly predicting $100 oil by the new year, but now the Trump administration has announced that it is considering waivers of sanctions to some of the major importers of Iranian oil. The waivers would presumably go to countries that have showed a good faith effort to comply with the sanctions but perhaps are too reliant on Iran to end all imports yet. It would be a mistake for U.S. policy makers to consider waivers at this time because new evidence suggests that a great deal of Iranian oil is still making its way to these countries – often through surreptitious means.
The Trump administration should worry about the amount of Iranian oil that is still on the global market and will continue to be traded after the sanctions begin on November 4. Despite high profile reports that the sanctions will cut off 1.5 million barrels per day of Iranian oil and that Iran’s largest customers – China, India, Turkey, the UAE and Japan– are reducing or ending their imports of Iranian oil altogether, new data on oil shipments from the month of September reveals a picture of the Iranian oil industry that is still robust.
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