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A Sensible Energy Policy

Links, Thoughts, and Open Thread
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2005/4/6 4:57:41 (2482 reads)

One of the things that annoys me the most about my country is our attitude towards energy consumption. We seem to all think that if we can personally afford it, we should be allowed to use all the energy we want. We seem to think that we have an endless supply of fossil fuels. Not only do we NOT have enough fossil fuels to last forever, but our current usage has implications far beyond simply economic.

If someone annointed me King of the United States, I would decree the following as my Energy Policy:

1. Incandescent light bulbs for uses other than automotive and aviation would be excise taxed at $2 per bulb. Incandescent lighting is archaic and super inefficient. I'd like to ban it altogether, but I understand that there are aesthetic reasons why it is used. My concern is that many people still buy them for their households simply out of habit. Today's compact flourescent bulbs are about 3 times more efficient and last 5 times longer. By taxing these dinosaur lightbulbs at $2 each, this pretty much puts the initial cost of both types of bulbs at the same level. As more people buy the compact fluorescents, the costs will come down even further.

2. All new homes with electric cooling and heating systems would be required to have heat pumps installed rather than electric resistance heating. Heat pumps are much more efficient and use much less electricity to heat a house than electric resistance heating.

3. Tax credits and deductions for energy efficiency improvements. Under my plan, homeowners would be allowed a yearly $300 credit for certain efficiency improvements, such as thicker insulation, new HVAC systems, window replacements and so-forth. If the improvement cost at least $300, and can reasonably be expected to save at least $100 worth of energy each year, you can claim the credit. Amounts over $300 would be deductible as long as the amount expected to be saved was more than 1/3 of the investment per year, up to a maximum of $3500 per household per year.

4. All automobiles, pickup trucks, SUVs, and minivans sold new in the US would be required to be capable of having MPG ratings of at least 28 city, 32 highway for model year 2007. Any exceptional vehicles would be excise taxed at $1000 per MPG point below standards. For instance, if Detroit sells a 12 MPG gas guzzling pickup truck, it would fall under the city standard by 16 points, and thus a federal excise tax of $16,000 would be due when it rolls off the assembly line. Note that some vehicles may comply with this mandate by simply having options on the vehicle that allow the driver to switch into a more efficient mode, such as by shutting off unused cylenders, or gearing the transmission differently. This allows for the occasional exceptional driving, such as hilly terrain, towing, and so forth where power is needed. This also would add more elasticity to the oil markets. If OPEC raises the prices too much, people simply put their cars in super-efficient mode and consume less fuel.

4a. All television and print commercials would be required to display in a conspicuous manner (similar to the size and font required for tobacco advertising) the EPA mileage rating for both city and highway as well as the type of fuel required. If there are multiple ratings based on engine models, then each engine size must be shown

EPA MPG Rating
Engine/Options CityHwy
2.8L 4cyl34 39
3.2L V63136

Note that mileage ratings are already required on all window stickers on vehicles being sold. This would just standardize the display for print, television, and other visual media, such as the Internet and billboards. On radio, the mileage ratings would have to be spoken.

5. Old vehicle recycling tax credits would be granted. Individuals and businesses that decommission and recycle for scrap old vehicles that have initial MPG ratings of less than 2/3rds of current federal new vehicle standards would receive a tax credit equal to 1/3rd of the market value of vehicles in the class. In order to receive the credit, the vehicle must have been operable and in-use during the given tax year, and must be crushed and rendered useless for parts purposes. We do not want to encourage these old vehicles to be parted out so that other old vehicles can stay on the road. They should be melted down.

6. Research incentives and grants. The federal government should fund research into alternative energy sources, rather than serving as the mouthpiece for the petroleum industry. Wind, geothermal and solar energy seem to be the most promising. The federal government should not only fund research, but should take an active market role by guaranteeing a market for the new technologies. Government projects should adopt this technology as early as practical for government buildings, military bases, vehicles, and so forth.

7. Phase out Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in favor of flat panel displays. CRTs are quite dangerous to dispose of, and use a great deal of energy as well. Through taxes, incentives, and regulations, we need to try to speed up the market's adoption of LCD and other flat-panel technologies.

8. Require tire pressure sensors to be installed on all new cars sold in the US. Under-inflation is not only bad for your tires and unsafe, but it wastes tons of fuel. By keeping the driving public's tires properly inflated, we'll save that fuel, which will be better for safety and the environment as well. We should require this by the 2008 model year.

(Update: The federal government just beat me to this. Model year 2008 cars will be required to have tire pressure sensors installed as standard equipment. Read more...)

More ideas to come...

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