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End the Natural-Gas Blockade
A thought experiment on the politics and economics of blockades


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143
Robert Zubrin

The top Kremlin strategic priority right now is to prevent the export of American natural gas to Europe. Natural-gas prices in Europe are more than double those prevailing in the United States, and by maintaining a near-monopoly on overpriced European natural-gas imports, the Putin regime assures itself of a vast source of revenue. This is allowing it to rule and rearm Russia without permitting the freedom necessary to develop the country’s human potential. Furthermore, so long as Europe is kept critically dependent upon Russia for fuel, Moscow can paralyze and render ineffective any Western response to its plans for conquest, whose initial steps are currently being demonstrated in Ukraine. More, and much worse, is certain to follow so long as Europe remains helpless.

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Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, the fracking revolution has made available vast natural-gas supplies, much more than we could ever need. These could be exported at great profit to us and great benefit to Europe, taking away Putin’s funding, destroying his leverage, and eliminating a regressive tribute that is impeding the European, and thus global, economic recovery. Thirty applications have been made to establish natural-gas export facilities in the United States, but, despite desperate European pleas for action, only one has been fully approved by all the relevant departments of the Obama administration.

The situation could not be more urgent. Issuing the permits would send out a market signal that could crash Russia’s oligarchy-owned gas company and stop Putin dead in his tracks. Yet despite this clear economic and national-security imperative, there are still those who justify the administration’s refusal, by claiming that allowing American natural-gas producers to export their product would actually damage the national interest. According to them, enabling natural-gas exports would harm Americans, by causing their fuel prices to rise.

Let us consider the logic of this argument. If stopping exports of natural gas really helps Americans by keeping their gas prices own, why not extend the principle and ban all exports? Then, according to such wisdom, everything would become cheaper. If we stopped American farmers from exporting a large part of their product and instead forced them to dump it on the domestic market for whatever price they could get, the commodity price of corn and wheat would crash. Not only that, if we stopped industrialists from exporting their products, all sorts of manufactured goods would become available at fire-sale prices. Imagine the benefits: bread at ten cents a loaf, new automobiles for under $3,000, Boeing jets at 80 percent off list price . . . the list is endless.

Such a plan would certainly be feasible. The United States has the largest and best navy in the world. Using just a small portion of it, we could blockade all American ports. It will be recalled that with a much smaller fleet at its disposal, and lacking any assistance from aerial or satellite reconnaissance, the federal government was able to blockade Southern ports rather effectively between 1861 and 1865. Without question it could do an even better job today.



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