Government interference in energy markets impedes national security

November 14, 2015

The National Security Case For Free-Market Energy

James Carafano
As originally published on Forbes

The House has passed legislation calling for liberalizing energy exports. Two Senate committees have approved similar bills. Whether the legislation becomes law this year remains unknown. But even if the bill doesn’t make it, pressure on Washington will continue to build.

At the height of the “energy crisis” in the 1970s, the U.S. government imposed restrictions on the export of oil and natural gas. Those rules are still around, even though virtually no other country has similar self-imposed restrictions. Nobody much cared about knee-jerk legislation passed decades ago until the U.S. demonstrated the capacity to start exporting energy.

The momentum for free-market energy reform has been building for a while. (Congress hasn’t delivered a big energy bill since 2007). Still, it might not happen this term. The White House has threatened a veto claiming that the bill “is not needed at this time.” Critics note that the administration seems dead set against any initiative that promotes the expanded use of fossil fuels.


The bill has also gathered detractors from the right. Spending hawks lament that, as the bill works its way through Congress, it keeps picking up “sweeteners.” For example, it now contains a provision to throw more money at the questionable Maritime Security Fleet administered by the federal Maritime Security Program.

Nevertheless, whether it happens now or later, the U.S. is all but sure to resume crude oil exports—and not just for economic reasons. There is a strong national security rationale for America to adopt a more free market energy strategy.

On balance, U.S. interests would be better served in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America if global consumers had less restrictive access to U.S. energy.


This is not to say that energy policy should be considered a “national security issue.” Washington is already far prone to claim everything—from climate change, to the national debt, to obesity—as a national security problem. Expanding of the reach of the term “national security” so broadly is dangerous, because it facilitates diverting resources from dealing with very real security problems. Further, turning any old policy challenge into a national security crisis promotes statist solutions which could well undermine the freedom and liberties of Americans.

“National security is not something that merely affects the well-being of Americans,” writes foreign policy scholar Kim Holmes. A national security matter is an intentional, human, malicious act threatening the American nation. Proportionality, scope, and intent are all factored into determining what constitutes a real threat.

“Energy security thus becomes more a policy task of keeping the global energy market as free and open as possible than a programmatic objective of national security or even foreign policy,” concludes Holmes.

If the goal of government is to advance policies that keep America free, safe and prosperous, then in energy export reform, Washington has an opportunity to check all three blocks at once.

Reposted by  11/14/15

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