Wednesday, November 16, 2005

This land is my land, this land is...

For sale! The LA Times is reporting that a certain little provision has "slipped" into a Senate bill.

Slipped into a massive budget-cutting bill late last month by the House Resources Committee, headed by Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), the provision has been eclipsed by higher-profile battles over two other controversial plans that would expand oil drilling offshore and allow it in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Those proposals have been dropped for now, but the land-sale provision remains.

The bill would lift an 11-year-old moratorium on the patenting — or sale — of federal lands to mining companies for a fraction of their mineral worth. While the patent fees would rise from $2.50 or $5 an acre to $1,000, the price would continue to exclude the mineral worth, which can amount to billions of dollars
I am for wise-use policies of public lands, and sometimes selling them is the right thing to do. However, this is clearly a gift to the mining industry, which might make huge profits while paying a pittance for the rights. Mineral rights are the epitome of the public/private debate. Given that, once extracted, Americans may never see these minerals again as they dissapear into value-added products, industrial processes, shouldn't we be charging more for their use? Shouldn't the extractors pay for what is a one-time shot at their use? Shouldn't we demand that extractors be more like caretakers than exploiters? Apparently not.

Since some 60% of large corporations pay no income tax, I'm just wondering where along the line they are supposed to contribute to our society. Really, such land giveaways are poised to become the worst examples of corporate welfare, the kind which has no long-term benefit for Americans but instead huge risks: depletion of resources, pollution from strip mining, and lack of corporate responsibility.