While folks in the Northeast continue to freeze their way through this not very globally warmed winter, there is plenty of cheap fuel available in Texas to help warm them up. Unfortunately due to archaic federal protectionist regulations, there’s no way to get the fuel to them. When we free-marketers talk about unintended consequences of government intervention in the marketplace, this is exactly the type of thing we have in mind.
As freezing weather drained stockpiles of propane to their lowest seasonal level in two decades on the U.S. East Coast this month, shivering New Englanders couldn’t tap abundant supplies sailing out of Texas. They had to look 4,000 miles away to more-expensive heating fuel from Europe.
The reason? The Jones Act, a 94-year-old law that prohibits non-U.S. ships from transporting cargoes between the country’s ports. With pipelines full and not a single eligible propane tanker to deliver fuel from Houston to states such as New York, consumers have had to pay more than $100 a metric ton extra for propane from across the Atlantic.