Post image for Six Reasons Not To Ban Energy Exports*

[* This column is a lightly edited version of my post earlier this week on National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog.]

You know we’re deep into the silly season when ‘progressives’ champion reverse protectionism – banning exports – as a solution to America’s economic woes. Congress should reject proposals to ban exports of petroleum products and natural gas for at least six reasons.

(1) Export bans are confiscatory, a form of legal plunder.

As economist Richard Stroup has often pointed out, property rights achieve their full value only when they are “3-D”: defined, defendable, and divestible (transferable). A total ban on the sale (transfer) of property rights in petroleum products or natural gas would reduce the asset’s value to zero (assuming no black market and no prospect of the ban’s repeal). To the owner, the injury would be the same as outright confiscation. A ban on sales to foreign customers would be similarly injurious, albeit to a lesser degree.

The foregoing is so obvious one is entitled to assume that harming oil and gas companies is the point. I would simply remind ‘progressives’ that the politics of plunder endangers the social compact on which civil government depends. Why should others respect your rights when you seek to deprive them of theirs? Every act of legal pillage is precedent for further abuses of power. Do you really think your team will always hold the reins of power in Washington, DC? [click to continue…]

Post image for Markey’s Ban on Petroleum Exports Not Legal under Trade Treaties (Updated Feb. 15, 2012)

Earlier this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up and approved the North America Energy Access Act (H.R. 3548), sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.). The bill authorizes construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the $7 billion shovel-ready project to deliver up to 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude oil to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries.

Democrats offered five amendments to ‘improve’ (that is, sabotage) the bill. The GOP majority easily defeated the killer amendments, including Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-Mass.) amendment to ban exports of petroleum products made from Canadian oil shipped via the pipeline. Markey claims consumers would benefit because refiners would be forced to sell more gasoline in U.S. domestic markets, lowering prices.

Earlier on this site, National Journal’s energy blog, and MasterResource.Org, I opined that Markey’s proposal would violate U.S. treaty obligations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). I also argued that an export ban could backfire. It could drive refining-related investment, production, and jobs out of the USA, increasing pain at the pump by curbing production at home while making higher-priced foreign imports more competitive.

In “Proposed Keystone Export Ban Fraught With Pitfalls,” National Journal reporter Amy Harder quotes two independent experts who offer similar assessments of Markey’s proposal. [click to continue…]