Tuesday, December 02, 2008
The State vs. Sensible Investment
A few days ago, I read about a somewhat amusing unintended consequence of a government effort to help America get over her "addiction" to oil.
Domestic producers of the renewable fuel have been selling huge quantities of biodiesel in Europe and in other foreign markets, where prices are often better, and then receiving a $1-per-gallon tax credit from Uncle Sam.Setting aside the incompetent or deliberate equation of tax credits with subsidies -- stealing less from someone is not the same thing as handing him loot -- it is amusing that our all-knowing central planners failed to see such an obvious business opportunity, and that the Houston Chronicle's Brett Clanton seems to regard this as some sort of swindle by the energy industry: A business is keeping more of its own money is not somehow wrong.
Biodiesel, made in the U.S. mostly from soybean oil or [used] cooking oil from restaurants, is blended at low levels with petroleum diesel to reduce emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
Today, American exports of biodiesel represent more than half of domestic output.
Biodiesel's $1-per-gallon subsidy, known as the "blender's tax credit," is available to U.S. companies that blend biodiesel with petroleum diesel and was intended to boost biodiesel production and encourage diesel marketers to buy the fuel. [bold added]
The real crime here is that the government regularly and systematically loots corporations through taxation -- and then uses mild relief from taxation to steer companies into unproductive capital outlays, like biodiesel. The article goes on to note that, despite the tax credit and the ability of American biodiesel producers to export to more profitable markets, "many U.S. plants shut down temporarily this year after soaring vegetable oil prices made production too costly[, while s]ome ... that kept working relied on exports to stay afloat." Clearly, the time for biodiesel, at least for large scale production, has not arrived, if it ever will.
But the reporting is hardly the worst thing about this story. That would be a toss-up between the fact that many businessmen see this government interference in their affairs as a good thing, and the fact that some self-proclaimed opponents see this boondoggle as "financed by the taxpayers".
Our state tramples over our property rights daily (which it should not do) in the name of solving the imaginary crisis of global warming, elevating already high fuel prices it helped cause in the process, and even further hamstrings the energy industry's ability to solve the actual problem (i.e., getting the most economical fuel into our tanks as possible) by meddling further in its resource allocation!
And then Clanton hops on like a flea at the end of this to whine about business practices that actually make some sense -- at least within the limits of the artificial context of biodiesel production!
Christmas Note to Self (and, Possibly, Wife)
For the same reason I inquired about chairs awhile back, I found this product recommendation over at Lifehacker somewhat amusing and worth looking into. (Yeah, I've been down that wallet-free highway before!) The review is about an "All-Ett", an ultra-thin wallet that, despite being made of rip-stop nylon, at least looks like it might be presentable.
A cursory search for a larger image found one in this mixed review. (And I'm leaning towards a leather-clad "executive" version after seeing it.) Has anyone here used one of these, and, if so, have you anything to add to the product review?
Scott Powell Gives Thanks
As I hoped, Scott Powell has put together a very worthwhile Thanksgiving Day post. He begins by saying that, "Thanksgiving, properly conceived, is a time to pay tribute ... to those who have created the values that sustain us." Read the whole thing, especially the ending. I like the way this man thinks!
Nanny State Update
If you have any doubts that the state can and will intrude into every nook and cranny of our lives if we do not reverse the trend towards statism, you need only look across the Atlantic.
Without particularly looking for them, I found the following three news stories:
- Britain may ban happy hour at its pubs.
- The police will soon start handing out "free" flip-flops (at right) so drunkards in high heels don't injure themselves on the way home.
- A taxpayer-subsidized "graffiti wall" (above) was recently "vandalized" by a tax protester who merely used it for its stated purpose!