Why Is Rep. Markey Spurning American Manufacturing Jobs?

by David Bier on January 30, 2012

in Blog

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President Obama has vowed to double U.S. exports by 2014. Speaking last year about trade agreements last year, he said, “they’re powerful examples of how we can rebuild an economy that’s focused on what our country has always done best – making and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words: ‘Made in America.’”

Yet some Democrats haven’t gotten the message. Thirty-three Democrats led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are arguing certain American energy companies should be prohibited from selling abroad. In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the coalition writes, “We write to urge the State Department, as part of its national interest determination for the Keystone XL pipeline, to ensure that any oil or refined petroleum products obtained from the pipeline remain available for sale within the United States.”

But—as normally goes without saying—American exports are good. Wealth created through sales to foreigners increases wages and jobs in the United States. Last year, for the first time ever, energy became America’s top export. In 2001, fuel wasn’t even in the top twenty-five U.S. exports, but new technologies created in the U.S. have revolutionized drilling, and new oil and gas fields discovered in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere have helped shoot the industry to the top of the charts.

Now here are Congressmen arguing that increasing these exports would actually be bad, that they would endanger American energy security, that they must be stopped. But this logic applies equally well to all other U.S. exports. Should we stop exporting airplanes, cars, and computer technologies? Would this make us more “technologically secure”? The answer is an emphatic “No!” It would make us much less secure. A highly integrated international market makes fuel shocks from hurricanes and other unexpected shortages in supply or spikes in demand less likely. It enhances energy security by spreading risk over hundreds of countries rather than just one.

Back in December, TransCanada President Alex Pourbaix tried to explain this fact to Rep. Markey, but was repeatedly cut off and shouted down. “That would actually reduce the energy security benefits to the U.S.,” Pourbraix tried to explain, “because the U.S. is by far the world’s largest consumer of refined products, and that—” Markey interrupts, “I don’t understand how that reduces security…. You’re willing to commit contractually keeping the oil here….”

“But in order to get enough refined products needed for the U.S.,” Pourbraix attempted to respond, “the refineries produce from time to time more diesel than they tend to use, and they export that diesel to Europe, and they import incremental volumes of refined products from—” Markey cut him off again and proceeded to badger Pourbraix into saying that he couldn’t alter the contracts that he had already agreed to with refinery partners along the Gulf Coast.

Markey loves to talk about his support for blue collar American workers, and just last week, Markey called for “manufacturing tax credits that will take Americans out of the unemployment line and put them on the assembly line.” Yet here the representative stands in the way of American manufacturing jobs that will, as the president said, “send American products all over the world,” creating wealth and prosperity for thousands. Markey may want to use special subsidies to make up for injuring U.S. workers, but it’d be better if he stayed out of their way in the first place.

Charles Higley January 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Markey needs to read the Constitution. The federal government is charged with facilitating commerce, NOT regulating, prohibiting, or stopping commerce. He is suggesting that the government actually prohibit free trade in which products from Canadian oil may actually bring money and goods into the US. It’s called TRADE for that reason!

Marlo Lewis January 31, 2012 at 9:45 am

Great post David. Markey’s proposal to ban exports made with Keystone crude would also be illegal under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, as I explain on National Journal’s energy blog (http://energy.nationaljournal.com/2012/01/sizing-up-obamas-keystone-pipe-1.php#2152648)

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