Lignite: Fool's gold | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lignite: Fool's gold

Posted By on Sun, May 22, 2011 at 6:56 AM

IN ARKANSASS FUTURE?: Lignite mining in East Texas.
  • IN ARKANSAS'S FUTURE?: Lignite mining in East Texas.

SOCIALIZED MINER: Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton)
  • SOCIALIZED MINER: Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton)
Periodically, an Arkansas politician gets worked up about the state's lignite deposits. But for four decades or more, the bottom line always turned out the same — it's not commercially viable to mine, burn, liquify or whatever.

The drumbeat has begun again. The Democrat-Gazette's Sarah Wire mined every aspect of the latest lignite push this morning. (Pay wall.)

It's still the same fool's gold, but that doesn't mean there aren't foolish legislators willing to spend taxpayer money in pursuit of it. It is rich irony indeed to see one of the vanguard of small-government Republicans, Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton, pushing for taxpayer funding of a study on the viability of this deposit.

Isn't this what free enterprise and capitalism are supposed to do? Identify profit-making ideas, research and develop them? This passage, smacking of socialized mining, particularly struck me:

Hammer said the state needs to fund the new study to show it is interested in creating a lignite industry.

He said a mining company will have to spend money on a lignite mine and wouldn’t want to have to search for it too.

“If I was a private investor I wouldn’t spend $2.5 million on hope,” Hammer said.

A few things:

1) How many times this year have you heard a Republican say — in response to stimulus spending on real jobs for demonstrable public benefit — "government never created a job."

2) Private investors don't spend money on hope, but the state's taxpayers should? How about we run government like a business — on reality, not pipe dreams?

Thanks to Gov. Mike Beebe for noting that taxpayers weren't asked to pay to discover the gas deposits now being exploited in Arkansas or study ways to commercially tap it.

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