Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why Arguments against Exporting Natural Gas don't Add Up

The energy policy topic of the week is whether to export more of America’s newly abundant natural gas. Like any good card-carrying economist, my instincts favor free trade. Other things being equal, that makes me pro-export. Still, shouldn’t we listen to what the other side has to say? Maybe gas is different. Maybe exporting it is not such a good idea after all. So just how strong is the case against permitting more natural gas exports?

Would low gas prices strengthen the U.S. economy?

Large users of natural gas are among the most vocal opponents of increased exports. Not surprisingly, they argue that today’s gas prices, still only a little above their historic lows, are a boon for the U.S. economy. Speaking recently to Politico, Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, put it this way:
[w]hen natural gas is not solely used as an export, and is used as a building block for manufactured goods, it creates eight times more value across the entire economy. In this way, American’s natural gas bounty is more than a simple commodity. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to export advanced products and not just BTUs.
Unfortunately, pointing out that we could use any exported primary good to make advanced products at home instead does not, by itself, tell us much about whether it should be exported.>>>Read more

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