Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Priorities, gasoline edition

Sure, oil companies are earning record profits, and the companies intentionally decreased their refining capacity to boost profits. But hey!, the legislature says "let's pass tax breaks for oil companies":
Despite soaring oil company profits, the Legislature on Tuesday approved tax breaks for oil refineries and pipelines that could total nearly $40 million.

The measure was sent to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on overwhelming majorities: 105-15 in the House and 36-2 in the Senate.…

Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, opposed the bill.

“I’m concerned that we develop energy sources for the future, not work to more quickly deplete the current energy sources,” Francisco said.…

Rep. Nile Dillmore, D-Wichita, was less sympathetic.

He said the refining industry purposely had held back on expansion to produce the current demand and resulting high gasoline prices at the pump.

“I’m not going to subsidize that business plan,” he said.
I don't see how $40 million is enough to do much to really change the companies' behavior, nor am I convinced that tax rates are the limiting factor for refineries. If they wanted more capacity, they'd build it.

Meanwhile, a House Republican proposed cutting the gasoline taxes that pay to repair our roads. This, again, is a stupid idea. Not just because the money would still be spent, which means it would still have to be raised, and gas taxes are a pretty good way of having people pay for the roads according to the amount of wear and tear someone imposes. And artificially lowering gas prices won't solve any of the structural reasons why the prices are high. It amounts to lying to people.

Meanwhile, a Goodland based alternative fuels complex is under construction. The facility will produce electricity, ethanol and biodiesel, and the close proximity of the three plants will allow reuse of waste products at each facility to help the others. Similar projects are being considered elsewhere in the state, and could bring actual benefits to the state and our national energy balance. Too bad the legislature isn't working on improving conditions for those sorts of alternatives to petroleum based energy.