魏尚進:用“一分為二”的政策可以讓美國普通家庭從高油價中獲益

語言: CN / TW / HK

■本文選自《復旦金融評論》

■作者: 魏尚進 復旦大學泛海國際金融學院訪問教授、哥倫比亞大學終身講席教授、亞洲開發銀行前首席經濟學家

■公眾號:復旦金融評論

一項“一分為二”的政策,只允許新增產量的石油按一定比例出口可以讓美國老百姓從輸家變成贏家。

魏尚進

復旦大學泛海國際金融學院訪問教授

哥倫比亞大學終身講席教授

亞洲開發銀行前首席經濟學家

美國的石油出口量大於進口量 [1] ,因此整體而言美國是近期的全球油價飆升的受益者。但美國老百姓都認為他們是油價上漲的受害者,因為所有由油價上漲得到的收益都被美國石油公司及其股東獨佔了。儘管目前能源價格的上漲主要是由美國政府所主導的針對俄羅斯的制裁引起的,但迄今為止沒有把這筆意外之財分給美國普通家庭的方案。

美國目前既沒有面臨石油產量短缺,也沒有面臨需求突然激增。相反,自2022年2月底以來能源價格不斷上漲的同時,美國石油出口也大幅增加。我根據美國政府機構能源信息署(Energy Information Administration)的數據估算 [2] ,2022年5月美國石油產品淨出口量為每日397.7萬桶,與去年同期相比增幅高達45%。考慮到同期石油價格還上漲了87%,以美元計的銷售金額的增長也更大。

其實,完全可以用政策大大改善美國家庭的境況。假設美國對石油出口徵收45%的税,這將增加石油在美國國內的銷量,並使美國的能源價格下降40—45%,其中包括汽油價格從目前每加侖5美元左右下降到3美元以下。更低的能源價格意味着美國普通家庭的獲益。如果政府將石油出口税收再分配給中低收入家庭,他們將進一步受益。同時石油公司仍然會比俄烏衝突前賺更多的錢,只是不會像現在那麼多。

出口税還將提升美國釋放戰略石油儲備(US Strategic Petroleum Reserve)的效果。自宣佈對俄進行制裁以來,美國政府已經宣佈會釋放約4500萬桶石油,但對國內能源價格沒有產生明顯影響。這並不令人意外。如果不徵收出口税,美國石油公司只會減少同等數量的國內銷售,同時增加出口。但如果開徵出口税,並根據從儲備中釋放的石油數量適當提高出口税率,美國國內汽油和能源的價格可能進一步下跌。

美國政府推行這一政策可能面臨三方面的障礙——美國國內政治、美國憲法和世界貿易組織規則。但這些限制並非不可克服。

首先,拜登政府可能一方面擔心共和黨會攻擊其採取“激進的社會主義”政策,另一方面擔心左派會攻擊其破壞了對氣候行動的承諾。但也有反向的政治邏輯。 許多美國家庭目前指責拜登政府未能解決物價上漲問題,這對他們來説是首當其衝的經濟擔憂。許多人不同意拜登將能源價格上漲完全歸咎於俄羅斯總統普京的觀點,因為如果沒有美國帶頭對俄羅斯進行制裁,全球能源供應不會下降。對石油出口徵税將允許政府在不停止制裁的同時,不犧牲美國普通家庭的生活水平。

第二個約束來自美國憲法的規定,“不得對任何州出口的物品徵關税。” 但如果出口税符合社會需要,有沒有辦法引入一種不會被律師稱之為出口税、但功能類似的東西?

從1975年到2015年的40年裏,美國有法律完全禁止石油出口。這似乎被認為是符合憲法的,儘管禁止出口就像徵收税率無限高的出口税。但今天如果是簡單地恢復出口禁令,就可能導致美國石油公司的利潤低於俄烏爭端前的水平。這些擁有強大遊説能力的公司肯定會大呼受到了禁令的傷害。

或許更好的方案是一項“一分為二”的政策,即禁止美國石油公司和煉油廠出口現有產量,但如果生產量超過俄烏爭端前的水平,則其增量的某個百分比可以出口。新增加的產量可以通過額外的開採來實現。由於政府抱怨美國石油公司沒有使用約9000份已批准的鑽井許可證,政府可以將許可證條款修改為,“不使用,就失效”。

由於美國仍然會進口一些石油產品,這一政策實際上會增加其國內的供應,從而將國內能源價格(包括加油站的油價)降低到爭端前的水平之下。重要的是,石油公司的利潤仍將高於爭端前的水平。

這項“一分為二”的政策優於英國式臨時暴利税,因後者降低了石油產量增加帶來的增量收益,從而抑制了石油公司投資和生產的積極性。相比之下,“一分為二”的政策,多生產一桶石油所帶來的增量收益仍然是全球油價,全球油價越高,煉油廠增加生產的動力也越強。

最後,世貿組織規則不允許國家實施出口禁令。 對此,美國可以考慮同時取消前總統特朗普對中國進口商品徵收的關税(該關税在2020年被WTO裁定為非法,同時還推高了美國家庭的生活成本)並實施“一分為二”的石油政策。這兩步對WTO規則的執行情況形成對衝。鑑於美國此前長期實施出口禁令,新政策不會在美國貿易政策上開創先例。

對世界其他地區來説,這一方案將提高能源價格。美國的部分盟國可能會有不悦情緒。但美國可以且應該利用其對中東及其他地區主要產油國的巨大影響力,更積極地幫助增加全球石油供應。

總而言之,美國從制裁俄羅斯中獲得的好處,不應該只讓少數石油公司及其股東受益。一項“一分為二”的政策,只允許新增產量的石油按一定比例出口,如果再加上戰略石油儲備釋放額外石油,可以讓美國老百姓從輸家變成贏家。

本文僅代表作者個人意見,僅供讀者參考,並不構成提供或賴以作為投資、會計、法律或税務建議。

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Making Higher Oil Prices a Win for American Households

SHANG-JIN WEI

Editor-in-chief of  Fudan Financial Review

Professor of Finance and Economics of Columbia University

Former Chief Economist of Asian Development Bank

The United States exports more petroleum than it imports[1]. As a result, the country as a whole benefits from the recent spike in global oil prices. But American households think they are hurt by the higher prices as all the benefits have gone to US oil companies and their shareholders. No attempt has been made to distribute any portion of the windfall to US households, even though today’s higher energy prices are largely the result of a US government-led action – the sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

The US is facing neither an oil production shortage nor a sudden explosion in demand. Instead, the rising energy prices since late February have coincided with a massive increase in US petroleum exports. Computed from the US government data[2], the US net exports of total petroleum in May 2022 were 3.977 million barrels a day, representing a whopping 45% increase over the same month last year. The increase in US dollar revenue is even greater given the 87% increase in the prices over the same period.

There exists a policy that can make American households much better off. For example, if the US introduced a 45% tax on its oil exports, it would increase the domestic sale of oil and bring down the US energy price by between 40-45%, including a decline in the gasoline price from its current level of about $5 per gallon to below $3 per gallon. The lower energy price means a win for American households. If the government distributed the export tax revenue to low- and middle-income households, they would benefit further still. Oil companies will still make more money than before the war, just not by as much as they do now.

An export tax would also increase the effectiveness of oil releases from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The US government has announced a plan to released about 45 million barrels of oil since announcing the sanctions on Russia, but with no noticeable effect on domestic energy prices. This is not surprising. Absent an export tax, US oil companies will simply reduce their domestic sales by the same amount and export more. But with an export tax – the exact rate can increase, depending on the amount of oil released from the reserve – domestic gasoline and energy prices could fall further.

The US administration faces three possible obstacles to such a policy: domestic politics, the US Constitution, and World Trade Organization rules. But these constraints are not insurmountable.

While the Biden administration may fear either an attack from the Republican Party for adopting “radical socialist” policies or one from environmental groups for undermining its pledge on climate actions, there is also a political argument in the opposite direction. Many US households currently blame the administration for failing to address rising prices, their number-one economic worry. Many do not buy Biden’s argument that Russian President Putin is solely to blame for higher energy prices, because global supplies would not have declined without the US-led sanctions on Russia. A tax on oil exports would allow the administration to maintain the sanctions without asking American households to sacrifice their living standards.

The second constraint comes from the US Constitution, which states that “No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State.” But if an export tax is socially desirable, is there a way to introduce something that lawyers would not call an export tax but is functionally similar?

For 40 years, from 1975 to 2015, the US banned oil exports altogether. This apparently was considered constitutional, even though banning exports is like levying an export tax at a rate of infinity. But simply restoring the export ban could cause US oil companies’ profits to fall below pre-war levels. These companies, with a strong lobbying power, would surely scream injury from the ban.

A more promising alternative would be a two-part policy that prohibits US oil companies and refineries from exporting any of their existing production but allows them to export a certain percentage of additional output above the pre-war level. The increased production can come from additional extraction. Since the administration has complained about US oil firms not using some 9,000 approved drilling permits, it could modify the terms of the permits to “use it or lose it.”

Since the US still imports some petroleum products, this policy would actually increase the domestic supply, and hence would lower the domestic energy prices (including the gas station prices) to be below the pre-war level. Importantly, oil companies’ profits will remain above pre-war levels.

The two-part policy is superior to a UK-style temporary windfall tax, which reduces the incremental gain from an additional barrel of oil produced and thus creates a disincentive for oil companies to invest and produce. With the two-part approach, in contrast, the incremental gain from producing an extra barrel is still the world oil price, and rises one for one with it.

Finally, WTO rules frown on countries imposing export bans. The US could consider simultaneously removing former President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports – which were ruled illegal by a WTO panel in 2020 and have pushed up the cost of living for American households – and implementing the two-part oil policy. There would be no net increase in US violations of WTO rules. And in view of America’s previous lengthy export ban, the new policy would not create a precedent in US trade policy.

For the rest of the world, this scheme would raise energy prices. This could be especially problematic for several US allies. But the US could and should help to increase global oil supply more aggressively by using its considerable leverage with major producers in the Middle East and elsewhere.

In sum, the gains to the US from its sanctions on Russia need not benefit only a few oil companies and their shareholders. A two-part policy that permits exports only from incremental new production, together with additional oil releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, could turn American households from losers into winners.

註釋:

[1]https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/oil-and-petroleum-products/imports-and-exports.php#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20the%20United%20States,row%20since%20at%20least%201949.

[2]https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/hist/LeafHandler.ashx?n=PET&s=WRPNTUS2&f=4

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