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Getting gasoline to the East Coast

Adriene Hill Mar 21, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: Gas prices are averaging $3.86 a gallon nationwide this morning. So let’s talk about one proposal to bring them down — involving our nation’s ports.

As Marketplace’s Adriene Hill reports, the White House may grant a waiver to something called the Jones Act.

Adriene Hill: The Jones Act isn’t one of those laws most of us have on the tip of our tongue. So I ask Kevin Book, managing director of research firm Clearview Energy Partners, for a quick explanation.

Kevin Book: The Jones Act is a law that prohibits foreign flagged tankers from taking cargo from one American port to another American port.

Basically, it keeps the American shipping business for American companies and American workers. Problem is, there aren’t that many U.S. tankers to move gas from the Gulf to the East Coast.

Book: Where there’s currently a shortage.

But would a waiver really make it cost less for East Coasters to fill up?

Jack Plunkett: It might have some small effect on gas prices.

Jack Plunkett heads the market research firm Plunkett Limited.

Plunkett: We’re not talking about dollars, we’re talking about a few cents.

Those pennies are a big deal in an election year, but any move to waive the Jones Act could alienate U.S. labor unions.

I’m Adriene Hill for Marketplace.

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