Can the Oil-Export Ban

Here is a letter to The Wall Street Journal:

To the editor:

Why do we have a taint of Soviet-style central planning in the American oil industry? Americans’ high standard of living, not to mention our status as a free society, results from private ownership rights and freedom of exchange. So why should American oil companies need “explicit approval” from some government bureaucracy before they may sell their property to willing buyers overseas? (“Shipment Shows Cracks in Oil-Export Ban,” Nov. 5, 2014).

The energy security justification for Congress’s passing the ban during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970’s was questionable even at the time; today it is silly.

The ban lingers  in a classic illustration of the way special interest groups latch onto government interventions that benefit them at others’ expense: “[R]efiners and chemical companies, which benefit from abundant, low-cost U.S. oil, are pushing back” against repealing the ban. Of course the refiners and chemical companies would like cheap inputs. But it’s not their oil. And foreign companies’ eagerness to pay a higher price for it shows they can put it to a higher-valued use for the world’s consumers than can American refiners and chemical companies.

It’s time to restore oil companies’ rights to their property and free them to sell it where they will.

Howard Baetjer Jr.
Department of Economics
Towson University

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