Eleanor Clift Spouts Economic Nonsense About US Oil Export Ban

Daily Beast correspondent Eleanor Clift has decided the law of supply and demand makes no sense, at least not when it comes to economics. It's difficult to avoid concluding that Eleanor Clift makes no sense, economically or otherwise.

A weekly panelist on The McLaughlin Show, Clift was a lonely voice for irrationality on the program this weekend, arguing in favor of an anachronistic ban on US oil exports imposed during the mid-'70s.

With the United States currently facing a glut in oil production, it is pointless to continue the ban, Clift's panelist cohorts argued, and a bill before Congress would end it --

MCLAUGHLIN GROUP HOST JOHN MCLAUGHLIN: Later this month Congress will vote to lift a ban on oil exports. Congress imposed the ban in 1975 in the face of dwindling US oil reserves (and in response to the Arab oil embargo that came after US assistance to Israel during the Yom Kippur War, as mentioned earlier in the program). Here's how bill sponsor, Republican congressman Joe Barton (Texas) explains his rationale for overturning the ban --

BARTON: No other nation in the world has the capability that the United States of America has to substantially increase our oil production. But in order to do that, Mr. Chairman, we simply must repeal this outdated ban on crude oil exports. The bill before us today would do that. It is a bipartisan bill. We have almost 10 percent of the Democratic caucus is an original co-sponsor of the bill.

MCLAUGHLIN: Should we lift the oil export ban ...?

PAT BUCHANAN: Sure ... I do agree, John, to an extent with lifting the ban. I think we are trading oil now with Mexico, we get some of theirs, they get ours, the same with the Canadians. I don't think it's a bad idea and you go up into the Alaskan oil, some of that can go to Russia. I think that given the fact that fracking has really aided American production and any oil put onto the world market reduces the price of oil overall in the world and thereby reduces our own price of gasoline, I think modern economics, this is one where I may agree with the Wall Street Journal.

CLIFT: Not surprisingly I don't. (chuckles) I think it seems like an outdated ban but it makes no sense with oil prices now below $40 a barrel, doesn't make economic sense to be exporting oil, it doesn't make national security sense, we should be storing oil, keeping it in the ground for the future, we don't need it now. And it doesn't make climate change sense. The people who are pushing for this, that congressman is from Texas, they just want to sell more oil and they want to drill for more oil. That does not make sense and Democrats in the Senate, you would need 60 votes to push this bill forward, you're not going to get 60 Democrats. It's dead in the water, dead in the oil.

David Rennie of The Economist pounced, as would Buchanan, both seeing the tanker-sized hole in Clift's argument --

RENNIE: You can't have it both ways, Eleanor. You can't say that it makes no economic sense to have, to lift this ban and then say that they just want to lift this ban because they want to sell more oil. Yeah, the market is telling them there's a market for American oil. America's producing all this oil, they can't sell it. It's not as if America will run out of oil if it's allowed to export some.

All this basically is is a gigantic fight between the people who drill for oil and people who refine oil and, for complicated reasons, having the export ban in place makes American oil cheap because it can't be sold abroad. And so the refiners are making out like bandits 'cause they can buy American oil very cheaply, so the refiners like the ban. The drillers, the explorers don't like the ban. It's just a market fight. The government has no business intervening in this market, it's a world market, there's plenty of oil, America's not going to run out of oil.

CLIFT: It's a political fight and Sen. (Ed) Markey (Democrat from the energy-barren state of Massachusetts) is leading the fight against it in the Senate and I respect his views way more than I do people who represent the oil industry ...

Or the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the oil industry ...

Another panelist, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, offered tentative support for ending the ban, noting that he'd paid $2.50 a gallon for gas that day, far lower than the $4-plus it used to cost --

PAGE: If you're going to lift the embargo, why not do it now while both oil and the sense of urgency is low? I see why the Democrats oppose this 'cause they want to get everybody over to alternative energy.

Then came Buchanan's turn to point out the fallacy of Clift's argument --

BUCHANAN: Massachusetts is not a big oil-producing state where Markey's from.

But definitely in the top ten for tree huggers, every year for decades now ...

CLIFT: Right, so therefore it's about the producers making money ...

And the people who work for them also making money ....

CLIFT: ... versus people representing the climate ...

Who are quickly discernible by the self-imposed halos above their heads ...

BUCHANAN: Obviously, as you say (gesturing toward Rennie), look, if they want to sell it, obviously it's good economics! You can't say there's not an economic argument there.

CLIFT: It's an industry that needs to be phased out ....

Ideally through some type of five-year plan based on innumerable Soviet models ...

CLIFT: ... we need sustainable energy sources ...

BUCHANAN: She wants to get rid of ...

CLIFT: It's unnecessary to lift it.

BUCHANAN: How can you argue, Eleanor, if you want to get rid of the oil industry?

CLIFT: I want to save the planet.

It's people I could care less about ...

Clift gets it backward -- if plunging oil prices mean that US oil can't be sold on the global market, what's "unnecessary" is the export ban itself, not maintaining it.

Better to keep the oil "in the ground," Clift airily opines, "for the future." By which she means, that liberal fantasy of future American energy demand supplied by the vagaries of solar and wind while oil, coal and nuclear are consigned to oblivion.

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