America’s Founders felt the freedom to export was so important that they included it in the U.S. Constitution: “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.” President Obama should reaffirm that vision by removing restrictions on energy exports.
Today, the U.S. government limits exports of both oil and natural gas. Unlike many of his previous executive orders, President Obama has explicit legal authority to make special exemptions to those bans if he believes doing so is in the national interest.
Opposition to giving Americans the freedom to export comes mainly from those who believe that exporting “our” energy would be detrimental. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to believe that legalizing exports would be beneficial. A recent NERA Economic Consulting study found that allowing natural gas exports would boost U.S. household income and gross domestic product (GDP), and a recent American Petroleum Institute found that allowing crude oil exports would boost employment and GDP.
But the most important thing to remember is that in the United States, unlike in Cuba or North Korea, if you produce something, it is not the government’s property—it is your private property, and you are free to sell it to whomever you want, subject to legitimate security concerns.
President Obama should remove the ban on energy exports, and if he fails to act, then Congress should pass legislation legalizing oil and natural gas exports. This would affirm that in the United States, unlike in North Korea, people are free to sell what they produce.