Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NIMBY Ethanol Plant!

I should have expected this, but I didn't. Residents in several towns home to proposed ethanol plants are fighting to keep them out. Much of it, there are some concerns about water usage, boils down to a classic case of NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. In fact one group opposed to a potential ethanol plant has printed up t-shirts reading "Good Idea. Bad Location."

Ethanol plants have to go somewhere and wherever they go, someone won't like it. A few things come to mind here.
  1. There is a failure of property rights in at least a couple of places here. If a firm acquires the land in an appropriately zoned area, they can build what they please on it. Provided of course that local government doesn't restrict their rights in some way which is a big if. The second failure comes in the form of negative externalities from the plant. If any form of pollution from the plant affects the property, including any one's person, of another then that constitutes an invasion and the polluter is liable for damages. This could include such things as runoff, air pollution, or the smell.
  2. There are going to be a few people who irregardless of the situation will raise complete and total hell when any proposal to build anything is talked about for reasons ranging from land use concerns to lack of "planning" to not wanting anything in their environment to change before they die.
  3. Apparently, I'm somewhat unique in actually liking the sight of economic activity, no matter where it is (although selling doves in the temple courtyard is a bit much). In most cases even the smells and sounds of productivity don't bother me. I'm more than compensated by the knowledge that entrepreneurial activity is taking place, work is being done and, hopefully, wealth is being created.

So hey ethanol producers: put the darn plant in my backyard. As long as you don't infringe on my property rights I wish you the best of luck!

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