Should U.S. oil drillers be allowed to export crude oil? Or should the federal government force drillers to sell their crude domestically?
This doesn’t seem like a very hard question, unless for some reason you consider the profits of U.S. refiners and other domestic users of crude oil to be enough of a national interest as to warrant such distortions.
But currently, exporting crude is illegal, which means huge profits for refiners. Tomorrow, the Senate Natural Resources Committee will discuss whether we should continue this export ban or instead opt for free trade.
Look at the witness list, and you'll notice an interesting name: Graeme Burnett of Delta Airlines.
Airlines are very vulnerable to the price of fuel. So Delta, a couple of years back, sensibly bought an aging fuel refinery outside of Philadelphia. Now that refinery is a profit source for Delta, and now Delta is lobbying against free trade in crude oil.
As someone who favors free-markets and detests corporatism, Delta's role in this fight is particularly vexing. Delta, you see, has been a leader in fighting against one instance of corporate welfare: Export-Import Bank subsidies for Boeing jets.
Boeing’s people push back, saying Delta is just being self-interested — Delta doesn’t want its foreign competitors like Air India competing with it. The airline's stance lends credence to that charge.
When you decry corporate welfare one day, and demand regulatory protection the next, it undermines your argument.