Democrats Are Holding Energy—and Prosperity—Captive

If American gas companies can get a better return selling abroad, who is the government to stop them?

For decades, Americans have been told of the evils of importing energy. It sends our money abroad, the argument goes, makes us vulnerable to supply disruptions, strengthens our enemies and weakens the economy.

Now, though, the tide is turning. Domestic natural gas production is booming. Not only will we no longer have to import the stuff, we'll actually have enough to start exporting. But to hear some people tell it, the only thing worse than importing energy is exporting energy.

Among those who have their doubts about this prospect is President Barack Obama. Current law requires the federal government to approve all sales of U.S. gas abroad, and that's not a sure thing. "I've got to make a decision -- an executive decision broadly about whether or not we export liquefied natural gas at all," he said recently.

Some congressional Democrats are discouraging him. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon warns that "major gas consumers could find themselves hit hard with energy price hikes and forced to sideline job-creating efforts" if producers can sell to just anyone. Shipping our homegrown supplies abroad "makes no sense," says Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Really? Usually when politicians talk about international trade, it's to decry imports and cheer exports. But these senators act as though letting natural gas leave U.S. soil will sap our vital essence.

Some corporations also oppose what they call "unfettered exports." Among them are Dow Chemical, Alcoa, Nucor and Eastman Chemical. They argue that selling American natural gas to Americans is good but selling it to foreigners is bad. They fret that foreign buyers will bid up the price of something they buy in great quantity.

The correct response to that fear is: So what? It's not the job of the federal government to intervene to depress prices of a commodity just because someone prefers cheap supplies. We don't forbid exports of wheat to control bread prices. We don't ban exports of electronics to keep Best Buy in business.

Every dollar that export controls save one corporation is a dollar that gas producers won't get. There is no compelling reason for the Energy Department to favor one over the other. If buyers in Europe are willing to pay more for gas, American petroleum companies should be free to sell to them.

Dow complains that exports could "disrupt natural gas supply and pricing." It has not, however, objected to the "disruptions" that in the past five years have increased supply while slashing prices by two-thirds.

Besides, it's not clear that allowing sales abroad would have much impact on American purchasers. The Energy Department says that if exports climb, prices could increase by a quarter over the next five years. But that would leave them considerably below the levels that prevailed before 2008.

Our usual approach in matters like these is to let prices be determined by the free interplay of supply and demand. If American gas companies can get a better return selling abroad, who is the government to stop them? If a foreigner offered you the highest price for your house, would you want someone in Washington to veto the deal?

Some environmental groups oppose gas exports out of fear that more gas means more ecological damage. But utilities that rely on gas emit far less carbon dioxide than those that use coal. The U.S. shift to gas has already cut our greenhouse emissions to the lowest level since 1994.

As for any damage from hydraulic fracturing used to extract gas, exports are irrelevant. It occurs regardless of where the gas is sold. The right way to address it is by penalizing companies that contaminate groundwater or cause other destruction.

Behind the opposition to gas exports is the suspicion that shipping a vital commodity to foreigners instead of keeping it for ourselves must be a mistake. But international trade is built on people in each country producing and selling what people elsewhere want.

It's hard to argue that Middle Eastern oil states are exploiting us when they sell us fuel -- and that Europeans will also be exploiting us when they buy it. In reality, no one is getting hosed in either instance. The exchanges occur because they benefit both parties.

That's especially obvious in the case of natural gas exports. But some politicians have a gift for missing the value of trade. They call to mind H.L. Mencken's definition of a cynic: "A man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."

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  • Almanian!||

    Two syllables: Con. Trol.

    That's all it's about, ever. Control. Period. Whatever argument is needed is the one that's made. The key is I get to tell you what you can and can't do because FUCK YOU THAT'S WHY!

    Not hard to understand. There is no other "principle" at work. Just Control.

  • ||

    ^Fucking This^

  • Pro Libertate||

    Cunt roll? Is that some sort of sushi?

  • ||

    I think it's the kind your mom makes.

  • felicia22||

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  • felicia22||

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  • felicia22||

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  • jensua07||

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  • markhit07||

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  • Palin's Buttplug||

    US manufacturing benefits greatly by lower domestic natural gas prices.

  • ||

    So does German and Chinese manufacturing.

    Is there a point?

  • Brandon||

    Is there ever a point to this moron's blind Obama-fellating?

  • JWatts||

    "US manufacturing benefits greatly by lower domestic natural gas prices."

    And US gas producers would benefit from selling their products overseas. There is no compelling case for the US government to pick favorites among these industries.

  • Sevo||

    "And US gas producers would benefit from selling their products overseas. There is no compelling case for the US government to pick favorites among these industries."

    Doesn't fit shitstain's fascination with Obozo, so shitstain ain't going for it.

  • cavalier973||

    *For decades, Americans have been told of the evils of importing energy. It sends our money abroad, the argument goes, makes us vulnerable to supply disruptions, strengthens our enemies and weakens the economy.*

    One of the most exasperating mantras Sean Hannity used to spout on his show was "Never in the history of the world has so much wealth been transferred to a foreign country" (or something like that), with regard to our purchase of oil that was produced by Middle Eastern countries. I wished that someone would have slapped his face, and then explained calmly about what the freakin' meaning of "trade" was. If it was a "transfer of wealth", then it was a transfer from them to us, since we got a useful commodity, and they got increasingly worthless Federal Reserve Notes.

  • ||

    Hannity is a braindead ape. I'm surprised he still has a show.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    There appears to be a market for reflexive, mindless TEAM RED cheerleading.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    Uhh he is a registered CONSERVATIVE. GET IT RIGHT GOD DAMN IT!

    Or at least that is what he makes sure to point out in every show.

  • $park¥||

    Apes don't read philosophy.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes they do, Sparky. They just don't understand it.

  • BakedPenguin||

    You know what Nietzsche called Internet commentors, Pro Lib? Insects.

  • ||

    I love watching your ass when you walk, BP. Is that beautiful or what? Don't go near him, he's mine!

  • BakedPenguin||

    How very interesting, Episiarch. You're a true vulgarian, aren't you?

  • UnCivilServant||

    But the ubermench still falls before the onrushing tide of army ants if he does not flee.

  • SugarFree||

    the fitting of a hitherto unchecked and amorphous population into a fixed form, starting as it had done in an act of violence, could only be accomplished by acts of violence and nothing else — that the oldest "State" appeared consequently as a ghastly tyranny, a grinding ruthless piece of machinery, which went on working, till this raw material of a semi-animal populace was not only thoroughly kneaded and elastic, but also molded. I used the word "State"; my meaning is self-evident, namely, a herd of blonde beasts of prey, a race of conquerors and masters, which with all its war-like organization and all its organizing power pounces with its terrible claws on a population, in numbers possibly tremendously superior, but as yet formless, as yet nomad. Such is the origin of the "State." That fantastic theory that makes it begin with a contract is, I think, disposed of. He who can command, he who is a master by "nature," he who comes on the scene forceful in deed and gesture — what has he to do with contracts?


    -The Genealogy of Morals

  • ||

    I despise him. HE, specifically, lends credence to the left's claims of wingnut right wing media. NEVER objective. All spin.

    Rush is bad, but Hannity is 69 times worse.

  • DontShootMe||

    jerk. You had to use 69, didn't you? Now I've got a mental image no amount of Drano will get rid of. ick.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    We are trading fiat currency for valuable oil. Aren't we the one ass-out in that arrangement?

    On a secondary note, isn't our largest oil importer Canada?

    Annex Canada now! Manifest Destiny! Spreading Democracy!

  • Brett L||

    Mexico was #3 for a while. So by the making the United States of North America, we could secure the resources to rule the world!

  • UnCivilServant||

    We're overdue to invade both of them in another annexation bid. Plus, with a narrower southern border (and no northern border) you won't need as many agents to patrol it.

  • Brett L||

    But the Coast Guard is going to be fucking huge. Unless we just claim the whole of the Gulf of Mexico. And the North Atlantic all the way to Iceland.

  • UnCivilServant||

    And why not? As we said, it is our manifest destiny.

  • Brandon||

    Why don't we combine Manifest Destiny with the Monroe Doctrine?

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    That was always my plan in Civilization IV

  • ||

    Annex Canada now!

    Can we leave the French parts?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Do they have any oil in Wee-Beck? If not, then fuck'em.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    They have poutine. Worth it's weight in gold. No better tasting food in the world.

  • exchef100||

    Dammit. Beat me to it.

  • ||

    I always took this as evidence that they really hadn't absorbed French culture. Poutine ranks with Frito Pie as one of the absolute junkiest foods on Planet Earth.

  • timbo||

    Well said.

  • Anders||

    "Annex Canada now!"

    And Mexico - excellent places to perform nuclear tests.

  • John C. Randolph||

    "I've got to make a decision -- an executive decision broadly about whether or not we export liquefied natural gas at all,"

    NO, HE FUCKING DOESN'T.

    It's not his property.

    -jcr

  • LifeStrategies||

    But President Obama, along with many Democrats, is economically illiterate anyway, that's why the economy is in the condition it's in...

    His assumption that the government should make such decisions is just more evidence of yet more government failure.

  • Daily Beatings||

    The premise of the entire argument is wrong. The domestic price is probable lower because of government subsides. If this is the case then the product can't be exported since this violates the WTO rule of no export subsides. Without subsidies the world price will fall as a greater supply is available in the world market eventually reaching an equilibrium price. Economics 101, a supply shift to the right will have an inverse effect on price. The domestic price should reflect the world price.

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