It seems to be happening more and more. Maybe it has always been this way but we see it more now because of social media. Whichever it is, it’s a shame. Some kid out on a street corner selling lemonade or hot dogs or whatever other products these young entrepreneurs have come up with. Some neighbor or passerby gets on the cell phone to let the government know that a free citizen is selling merchandise they own on their own property. Oh, the humanity!
Sometimes it is a "real" vendor in the area complaining. Sometimes it is an overzealous safety concern (people who think the government is here to provide regulations to keep us safe from ourselves and our lack of decision making skills). Most of the time, it's just the friendly neighborhood killjoy who thinks they need to keep the chaos of a lemonade stand at bay.
But these ventures are more then just a rite of passage for young Americans. They are an important experience with the free market. Is this really the type of behavior we wish to discourage?
I was expecting something like this to happen when we were in Washington. There were some young men, not really kids who were out making some money. These guys were probably in their 20s or so. They had coolers with iced down bottled water and Gatorade. They were selling them like hot cakes to tourists.
They had a few market advantages: 1) Washington is stifling hot. 2) Tourists don’t expect that heat and fail to prepare. 3) These guys knew where tourists go, they knew where to find their customers. 4) They had the best price point on The Mall.
It would have been easy easy for someone to complain. Health inspection, business license, vendor permit, etc.
But here’s the reality. They weren’t being obnoxious, pushy, or rude. They called out their products and prices and if you didn’t walk over and buy one, no pressure, someone else will. They were selling a legal product that people needed for their health. They could have just as easily been selling counterfeit designer merchandise or dope a few blocks over, but they weren’t. The irony of the situation is the same people who would complain about water vendors would be even more angry if the people they shut down started selling drugs. Here are some young men operating in a free market, putting in an honest day of work by offering a useful product at a fair price to willing customers. That’s the American model of business.
So, if you ever get the notion to call in and report someone who is making an honest attempt to get some spending money or pay the rent, do the world a favor, don’t.
I recently had a chance to talk energy with an employee of Plant Hammond. Hammond is a coal fired plant in the Coosa community, west of Rome. I didn’t ask him to formally go on the record so I’ll treat him as anonymous but what he shared with me is accurate and easily verifiable.
I've discussed Hammond on the blog previously. It’s quite doomed. In fact, they are sitting on a remnant of coal that can either be used in case of an unforeseen need, such as a failure at another plant, or burned off during the peak times this coming winter. New regulations on the handling and storage of wet processed coal ash go into effect April 15, 2019. After that date, the boilers at Hammond will never burn another ounce of coal.
Hammond was built in the 1950s and has provided a more than adequate return on investment for The Southern Company and Georgia Power. But the plant is aging and the upgrades needed to sustain the plant are excessive and not advisable. It is far more cost effective for Georgia Power to replace the plant. So they’ll close and demolish it like they did with Plant Branch bear Eatonton.
But there is already talk of using the real estate for more energy options. The company is planning to build solar on the site. With the distribution infrastructure already in place, the site is already primed for use. Adding gas generators would require extensive pipeline construction. The sun is already shining on the sites so solar make sense.
We also discussed the fact that a few weeks ago, Georgia Power put a batch of solar from California on the grid. The amount brought in was in excess of the generation capacity of Plant Hammond. Solar isn’t just a rooftop hobby anymore. It is becoming a serious power option.
With possible solar options, the expansion of Plant Votgle, and new natural gas generators coming online, not to mention a respectable presence of hydroelectric facilities, Georgia will have a further diversified energy portfolio. We’ll be tapping sources closer to home. And that can mean cheaper, cleaner, more efficient energy in our state and in The South.
But coal isn't dead. With a powerhouse like Plant Bowen, in Euharlee, near Cartersville, coal is alive and well. Bowen remains the one of the most powerful generation stations anywhere and it’s not going anywhere soon. The state also has other substantial coal plants. So those trains hauling in huge chunks of West Virginia will still be rolling through for the foreseeable future.
With all this in mind, the next episode of our podcast will feature a chat with Tim Echols of the Georgia Public Service Commission. He shares some ideas for the future as well as how the future is already well underway right here in the Peach State. We talk about some of the limitations on our portfolio and also other issues related to energy production. I hope you'll give the episode a listen. .
In the interest of full disclosure we own a flex fuel vehicle. If there is a convenient opportunity, I’ll buy the corn infused mixture atvthe strangely lower price. But I never go out of my way to do so. It’s more of an occasional novelty than it is a realistic option for regular use.
Then I came across a tweet by Stefan Turkheimer. He’s on Washington and was commenting on a promoted tweet that was apparently being targeted to people around the EPA building there.
This looks good on the surface. Protecting farmers, strengthening rural economies, swift action by the man who has inspired so many in “flyover country.”
But is that really what is happening? I want it to be what’s happening but I tend to be a skeptical about politics, especially when it promises to benefit rural America. This is no different.
For starters, the ethanol in that fuel isn’t made from pecans. Or onions. Or peanuts. Or hogs. Or cattle. In fact, it’s competing for market with food for hogs and cattle. Basically it does protect some large producers of corn or grain. It’s also a good deal for the energy companies who are making the fuel. The family owned farms and the small towns aren’t any better off than they were.
Second, this ad is talking E15. That’s a mixture that’s 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline. It’s terrible fir small engines like lawnmowers and boats. It’s also not great for your average gas burning automobiles. A gasoline engine just isn’t made to run on that fuel mixture. Sure, our flex fuel vehicle can handle it just fine but our other cars can’t.
What will really help stimulate rural economies?
1) Consumers committed to products and services really provided in those economies.
2) Removing old and preventing new trade barriers that hinder farmers and small businesses from finding customers both locally and abroad.
3) Cutting regulations that large corporate banks can afford to survive but that place undue burden on locally owned banks and credit unions.
4) Policies that allow smaller farms to find an affordable workforce for labor intensive produce.
5) People in big cities discarding the stereotypes of rural areas as worthless, underdeveloped spaces populated by ignorant people and in turn supporting policies that maintain the resources rural economies need in order to thrive.
6) Tax policies that don’t place undue burden on small farms or prevent one generation of landowners from keeping those farms operating in future generations
That’s a start anyway.
Rest assured that energy companies and factory farms teaming up to turn food for people and livestock into gasoline is not going to provide a stronger economy for small towns and family farms in The South. Only conscious consumers, an affordable workforce, limted government, and a respect for private property rights can do that.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire