Thursday
Sep242009

Energy Reform

Today, everyone wants to be environmentally friendly and ‘green.’  Nearly every commercial these days has another company touting its environmental credentials.  The government is no different.  The difficulty in crafting environmental legislation, however, is making sensible choices and avoiding money give-aways.

The Federal government’s recent “cash-for-clunkers” program is a classic give-away of taxpayer money.  The City Council, on the other hand, is currently moving more legislation that will encourage real renewable energy development without breaking the taxpayers’ bank.

The Federal government recently passed a multi-billion dollar “cash-for-clunkers” program.  The idea was to take gas-guzzling cars and replace them with more fuel-efficient vehicles.  Over time, the hope is to reduce the amount of petroleum usage in the U.S. and stimulate the economy.  This program, however, is just your government gifting your money to new car buyers.

The “cash-for-clunkers” program was originally financed to the tune of $1 billion, but ran out of money within one week.  This alone shows that the program was too rich and the average American recognized a good deal.  A far more modest program would likely have achieved the same results with far less cash.

Furthermore, when a similar program was tried in France, it resulted in a huge spike in new vehicle sales during the program, but a crash in sales immediately afterward.  Citizens just accelerated what would have otherwise been the normal process of purchasing a vehicle.  In the end, there was no net savings in fuel consumption that wouldn’t have otherwise come about naturally through the market.

The City Council, however, is currently moving more sensible environmental legislation.  I introduced a bill that exempts renewable energy improvements made on land from real property taxation.  This measure will encourage actual development of solar and wind farms on Oahu.

Better yet, by offering a real property tax exemption for renewable energy on open land, we help preserve Hawaii’s valuable open space.  I don’t want to see every square inch of our island paved over.  Finding positive uses, such as renewable energy projects, help preserve our community’s valuable open land areas from urban development.

Finally, unlike the “cash for clunkers” program, this tax exemption for renewable energy will not cost the taxpayers any current dollars.  By only exempting improvements on land, the City is only foregoing future prospective revenues.  No taxpayer dollars will be given away to anyone.

Being green may be a good idea, but it only makes sense if done in the right way.  Giving away taxpayer money to feel good about the environment doesn’t make sense.  Finding ways to encourage renewable energy development, however, works.