On Friday, the Biden administration announced a “temporary pause” of pending requests for permission to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) outside the United States. Given the much-publicized role that U.S. LNG has played in global energy markets in recent years (see last year’s Capitolism for more), the Biden move was widely criticized—and no, not just by oil and gas companies and partisans (here’s the Washington Post editorial board, for example). The move also, however, was narrowly praised by the young eco-warriors that the White House was clearly targeting—fossil fuel opponents who vigorously lobbied for a blockade on U.S. LNG and related export facilities.
Readers here will be unsurprised to learn that the critics are (mostly) right: The decision is a bad move that reeks of politics and injects more risk and uncertainty into an already risky global energy market. However, it’s also probably not the epic catastrophe that some of the more, ahem, vocal critics claim. And only time will tell if the move’s political benefits outweigh the economic, environmental, and geopolitical risks that it creates. In the meantime, however, the episode provides another glaring example of how U.S. law far too often gives far too much discretion to American politicians and bureaucrats, to the detriment of not just those involved but also the broader U.S. economy and national security.