Robert Rapier on the U.S. exports of gasoline – isn’t this a good thing?

Michael Giberson

At Robert Rapier’s R-Squared Energy Blog he offers his list of  Top 10 Energy Stories of 2011. One of the stories: the U.S. was a net exporter of finished petroleum products such as diesel and gasoline for the first time since 1949.  In a post today he notes that some people have been troubled by the news:

This news did not sit well with some people, who argued that those exports could have been better used in the U.S. I read numerous comments from people angry that we are exporting fuel. In fact, one of the arguments against the Keystone Pipeline is that the fuel could end up being exported after it is refined.

The objections to exporting gasoline and diesel seem essentially the same as motivated Markey’s letter on natural gas exports. As Rapier said, “I don’t think the people who are making these arguments have thought this through very well.”

When we import oil, many folks complain about all the money we send overseas and say it would be better to keep that money in the domestic economy. When we export finished petroleum products, many folks complain that it would be better to keep those valuable energy products at home.

At the very least, for any one person complaining about both imports and exports of petroleum, we should invite them to note that (1) when we import oil, people overseas ship valuable energy resources into the United States, and (2) when we export petroleum products, people overseas send money into the U.S. economy.

Then, while they try to work out an explanation that can make both imports and exports of energy bad, and inflows and outflows of money bad, give them a little explanation on “comparative advantage”.