Thursday, September 08, 2005

TIF's, Refineries, and Rent-Seekers

John McAdams, the Marquette Warrior/Bulldog, published an interesting piece demonstrating that TIF districts are not necessarily the Great Gift to Man which their proponents say they are. In the article, John Norquist (a policy wonk) stated that when Milwaukee stopped offering TIF's, the number of developers who proposed projects went up, considerably. Norquist claims that the "cronyism" was erased from the equation

The topic of "cronyism" is also brought up in a story in today's World Net Daily. A group called the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights states that memorandums from Mobil, Chevron, and Texaco collectively make the case that limiting refinery capacity will increase profitability (duhhh,) and that between the Big Sisters of Oil, )the old Rockefeller monopoly group plus a couple of newbies,) and the American Petroleum Institute, there have been a number of methods employed to do just that: limit refining capacity.

One of the more interesting quotes:

"FTRC says the Mobil memorandum from 1996 evinces the company's successful plan to keep smaller refiner Powerine from reopening its California refinery. It notes much of the hardships created by California's refinery rules came at the urging of the major oil companies, not the environmental groups blamed by the industry. "

The perceptive reader will now say "AHA!!!" Cronyism=rent-seeking=regulatory pressure.

But there's another interesting little tidbit:

"Significant events need to occur to assist in reducing supplies and/or increasing the demand for gasoline. One example of a significant event would be the elimination of mandates for oxygenate addition to gasoline. Given a choice, oxygenate usage would go down, and gasoline supplies would go down accordingly. (Much effort is being exerted to see this happen in the Pacific Northwest.)"

The state of Washington subsequently did away with its ethanol mandate, requiring greater quantities of refined fuel to fill the gasoline volume occupied by ethanol."

In other words, limiting corn-alcohol will enhance refining profits.

One can have legitimate concerns about the "corn-alcohol" controversy: it is argued, for example, that extracting corn-alcohol actually uses more petroleum than it saves. It is also argued that corn-alcohol use simply replaces one pollutant with another.

But we DO know that the Sisters are seemingly engaged in the same business practices which, ah, clouded the Rockefeller name a long time ago: screw the competition, or buy them out.

It may be a while before the Big National Radio guy discovers that the Sisters, themselves, are one of the more significant contributors to the "refinery shortage." But you read it here.

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