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Research Article

The Economic Case for Lifting the Crude Oil Exports Ban

Oil and natural gas development in the United States is expanding at record levels. In the last week of February 2015, the U.S. produced more than 9.2 million barrels of oil per day (bpd), up 14% from a year ago. U.S. natural gas production was almost 31.9 trillion cubic feet in 2014, an increase

of 29% since 2007. Consider these facts and figures in the context of the events of the 1970s when the ban was established: today, the United States is an energy powerhouse poised to become a key influencer in global markets.

In Washington, a debate around our country’s ban on crude oil exports—a policy dating back to the energy crises of 1973–1979—has emerged around this new energy landscape. The Administration has recently taken steps to modify the ban by permitting energy companies to ship slightly refined crude oil condensate abroad. In December, the Commerce Department granted export licenses to a select few companies (easing the backlog of condensate export requests) and issued a document outlining what types of crude oil could be legally shipped abroad, clearing the way for the export of up to one million barrels per day of ultra-light U.S. Crude.

An examination of expert reports released over the last year illustrates the economic benefits inherent in eliminating the ban and exporting American crude overseas.

In this report we examine studies by the Brookings Institution (Brookings), Resources for the Future (RFF), ICF International, The Aspen Institute, and IHS. Along with the accompanying economic benefits discussed, lifting the crude oil exports will also strengthen ties with our trading partners and uphold the principles of free trade, the very foundation that is the basis of our country’s economic philosophy.

William F. Shughart II is Research Director and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, Editor-in-Chief of Public Choice, editor of the Independent Institute book, Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, and co-author of the Independent Briefing, Plastic Pollution: Bans vs. Recycling Solutions.

Margo Thorning Ph.D is Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the American Council for Capital Formation.

From William F. Shughart II
TAXING CHOICE: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination
So-called “sin taxes”—the taxing of certain products, like alcohol and tobacco, that are deemed to be “politically incorrect”—have long been a favorite way for politicians to fund programs benefiting special interest groups. But this concept has been applied to such “sinful” products as soft drinks, margarine, telephone calls, airline tickets, and even fishing gear. What is the true record of this selective, often punitive, approach to taxation?

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