AuthorShackford, Scott

NOT LONG AFTER taking office, President Joe Biden released an executive order to fight climate change and called for evaluating the impact of environmental policies on the poor. Yet in a separate executive order, Biden affirmed his support for the 1920 Jones Act, a maritime law that harms both the environment and disadvantaged communities. It seems the residents of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska are no match for an entrenched industry and union cronyism.

The Jones Act--technically the Merchant Marine Act of 1920--shields the American shipping industry from foreign competition by requiring that ships engaging in trade between multiple U.S. ports be made in America and owned and crewed by American citizens. Supporters say the Jones Act is necessary for national security, but research from the Cato Institute has shown the law's biggest impact is driving up consumer prices for many Americans by forcing isolated states and territories to import necessities from other countries.

The cost of complying with the Jones Act encourages American businesses to transport goods between U.S. states on trains and trucks. In Europe, 40 percent of freight is moved by sea. Within the United States, that share is only 2 percent. Ships generally require less energy per mile and therefore produce less pollution.

The Jones Act pushes freight transportation onto highways across America, thereby increasing pollution and congestion. Ironically, the law has even led to a decline in the number of ships America builds domestically.

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