The downward trend in global oil prices that garnered so much attention – and hyperbole – over the past couple of weeks also revived interest in the US crude oil export conversation. The million dollar question with regard to US oil exports is how additional volumes of US crude on the global market would impact global prices and US gasoline prices, a question that’s been dissected, studied and speculated about for the past few years as US production soared.

Oil prices have strengthened a bit from recent lows, with the December Brent futures contract trading around $86 per barrel early Friday afternoon.

One of the more popular views is that additional supply of light, sweet US crude would put downward pressure on global light, sweet price benchmark Brent, which in turn would likely pressure US gasoline prices downward due to the price linkage between those commodities.

But the recent oil price plunge materialized without any substantial change to US crude oil export policy. “So, do world markets really want U.S. crude right now?” asked Marketplace reporter Dan Weissmann in a recent segment.

It’s probably too soon to tell and the actions of other major producers would be the real wild card with regard to prices.

But with the return of volatility to global oil markets that experienced a period of relative calm, now might not be the best time to greenlight US exports. Opec meets in about a month and oil prices could drastically change before the producers huddle to decide whether to cut their output.

Historically, oil price volatility has been the norm, which Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out in the Marketplace interview.

“The big news in the oil markets is not just lower prices — it’s the return of volatility, and volatility works in both directions.” – Michael Levi

Given the current state of the market, it’s possible relaxing the US crude oil export ban would have limited impact. “In the worst case,” said Levi, “relaxing the ban doesn’t do anything.”

US producers might not want to sell into a bear market, as a sustained period of low oil prices would hurt their profitability and could put the brakes on US oil output growth. So changing the policy on exports might not alter physical balances and the price signals they send.