“Alternative” fuels

On monday I watched part of a program on Cspan. It was a commission of a handful of governors gathered to discuss so called alternative fuels. Several things stuck me… First off, there was a guy there that represented over 200 different companies involved in the mining industry speaking about coal, oil from coal, etc. I was appalled at how terrible a public speaker he is. If you are going to represent 200 companies, the least you could do is memorize your speech or at least not get confused by your own note cards… Predictably, one of the industry representatives (ethanol?) was pushing for both federal and state “help”. According to him, these companies would never get off the ground if they were not subsidized. Imagine my surprise when the governor of Montana told him (and the various execs in the audience) that it is up to industry to make this happen. He pointed out that all of the greatest technological advances have come, and will come from the private sector. Not bad for a democrat:-) Of course he later advocated a taxpayer based hedge for the industries by recommending a price floor for the new types of fuels. His idea is to have the federal government pay the difference to producers of alternative oil production if the price of oil ever falls below $30 a barell. The idea is that wall street will rush to fund investment in these plants if there is a guaranteed minimum of revenue. I agree with him that it will be a pretty good bet that the price will never get that low. It’s still gambling with other people’s money though. This is a classic example of an ok sounding idea being a symptom of political largess. This particular idea isn’t so bad, but his caviler attitude towards risking other people’s money is worrisome. A dead giveaway is the fact that he advocates federal money and not tax money from the great state of Montana to be used…


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