S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0904.energy.htm

NOTE: Our friends in high places tell us the best thing we can do to help victims of Hurricane Katrina is to donate money to the American Red Cross. We encourage you to do so.

COMMENTARY
State needs to develop sustainable energy policies
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

SEPT. 4, 2005 - - With gas prices shooting through the roof, state lawmakers might want to consider ways to cut back on its reliance on fossil fuels.

In short, the state should develop a multi-faceted sustainable energy policy that focuses on boosting renewable energy, conserving fuel, recycling and using common sense in energy decisions.

“This is the time to do it,” said former state Rep. Harriet Keyserling of Beaufort, who pushed the state to provide now-defunct tax incentives for renewable energy some 20 years ago and helped to create a state energy office.

If she were queen for the day and could do anything to promote better use of energy, what would she do?

Explore all alternatives - - tax credits as incentives, windmill energy off the coast, improved energy efficiencies, more carpooling, more investment in fuel efficiencies, building greener buildings. The list goes on.

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From a state level, there is a lot lawmakers could do - - things that wouldn’t cost much more, but would promote conservation, energy efficiency and sustainability without having a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life. A few ideas:

Tax incentives for consumers. Because electricity is relatively cheap in South Carolina compared to other states, consumers often don’t have an incentive to buy energy efficient appliances. If there were incentives for consumers, they’d be able to get tax credits or rebates to install solar systems, purchase appliances that cost less to run or build homes that were more efficient. Example: At the Sustainability Institute’s Green House in North Charleston, the upfitting of an 840-square-foot house built in the 1940s at an affordable cost into a passive solar energy-efficient building caused monthly energy bills to drop from $276 to $65.

Tax incentives for businesses. Builders and developers often don’t have reasons to adopt new technologies that will save energy, according to LS3P architect Allen Taylor. Because they don’t get a reasonable payback, they often don’t strive to build in a “green” manner that could cut energy costs. If they had a little extra - - a tax credit of some kind as in other states - - they might have the incentive to take more steps to build better buildings.

“I think it’s all about creating incentives for businesses to change over to these technologies that make sense,” said the Sustainability Institute’s Bryan Cordell.

Leading by example. The state could mandate that new government buildings be built to a “green” standard, such as the recently-opened $10 million new elementary school in North Charleston. Its overall cost was about 5 percent more than a traditionally-built school, but with its daylighting, conservation and other features, the school should recoup the higher costs in a relatively short time.

Create green standards. The state could also create green standards so that builders could label green construction to let consumers know that it met a certain energy efficiency level.

Provide incentives to lower product costs. Architect John Ciccarelli of Mount Pleasant’s McKellar & Associates, which designed the North Charleston school, said it would help to give a boost to businesses that created green products with some kind of incentive for investors.

“For a lot of these products, there’s really not anything against using them other than they aren’t available or they are too costly,” he said.

More education. Keyserling said one of the best things that could be done would be to provide more funding for the state energy office so it could conduct educational outreach to help consumers know more about green alternatives.

Incentives for farmers. If the state wanted to go really green, it could provide incentives to farmers to grow corn or other crops for alternative fuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel. Such “home-grown energy” could cut dependence on foreign oil through a renewable source.

More recycling. The state could develop strategies to encourage more recycling.

Bottom line: There are myriad strategies South Carolina could develop to become less tied to fossil fuels. Some smart politician has a real opportunity to push the bandwagon to make it happen. Otherwise, we’ll all keep paying the price.

RECENT COMMENTARY


McLEMORE'S WORLD
9/2: Katrina

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


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FEEDBACK
9/2: Contrition follows attack

To the editor:

You never miss a chance to downgrade the president of the USA, In all your report he is to be blamed for most everything that goes wrong in the country, In your next article I expect that he will be blamed for the Hurricane that hit LA.

As to the volunteers program that you think he should start, lets say you and I do it this way. You list the names of all your kinfolk from about 8 to 75 and get the commitment from them for the 8 hours, then with this list in hand I will be able to go to mine and say look what Andy is doing lets match him, with that as a start we might be able to move some of the people of SC.(please post the names and hours volunteered in the State Paper)

-- Julius L. Brown, Hartsville, S.C.

EDITOR'S NOTE: When it was pointed out to Mr. Brown that last week's column was the first that we can recall that mentioned President Bush and that Brack volunteered at least eight hours a month with three service organizations, Brown backed down with this comment:

"I seldom write a letter Mr. Brack, and if I missed judged you I am sorrow, but as I remember most of what I read from you is negative, whether state or national, I will continue to read your column and determine if I missed judged you, but I hear so much negative about the president of the US it gets to me."

9/1: Property tax isn't fair

My response is related to your commentary on property taxes in the Hartsville "Messenger" (See Commentary, 8/21). I am a college graduate with a professional career over my years of employment. I will be retiring over the next year and a half. I am not basing my concerns with rising property taxes because I am nearing retirement. I do not object to factoring property taxes into the tax base, as long as it is truly equitable. I do not feel it is any longer a "Fair" tax as administered and as you quoted in your article.

I also support education but do not feel the property tax should be the sole basis, in most part for funding. Education administrators and local boards feel they have an endless means of monetary resource support by upping the Mils as they see fit.

Your article appears to be politically slanted in favor of business and pro business supporters such as the Chamber of Commerce and certain economist such as quoted in your article.

Yes, the shift would affect the higher income people. It is also affecting the middle and lower income people who have worked to buy these homes, etc. and who have remained on a limited income.

We have a large segment of people who do not own property but have children in our schools that are not contributing to the financial base to support the educational system, very little.

The sales tax options and other options recommended would spread the cost of education over a more equitable basis.

I am an active VOTER and look to my representatives to do something to make the property tax "fairer" and more equitable, preferably eliminated.

-- Ron McElhannon, Hartsville, S.C.

8/29: America is divided

To the editor:

Yes, America is divided over many issues at the present time, but none as divisive as the Iraq War.

Despite the attack on Pearl Harbor, which put us at war with Japan, and the subsequent declaration of war against America by Nazi Germany, by late 1944 the country was becoming disenchanted with the mounting caualty rates and the diprivations caused by gasoline and food rationing. Yet we re-elected Franklin Roosevelt for a fourth term.

Unlike Roosevelt, George Bush is a lame duck president who has squandered his power to unite the country with his ill-advised and badly executed war in Iraq (it's going to be a hard three years for the President and the country).

-- Warner B. Huck, Hilton Head Island, SC

8/28: Criticizes Dems

To the editor:

Would you please tell me how you expect President Bush unite the American People when your democratic friends continue smashing, bashing, calling him evil names, etc.? This thing of unification works both ways. Talk to Sen. Kennedy, Howard Dean and all of their left wing crazies to help the president and not continue their left wing rhetoric.

-- Calbert W. Johnson, Bishopville, S.C.

8/28: Service learning is growing

To the editor:

As a fresh breeze in summer heat, this column (Commentary, 8/28) carries freshness and invigorating encouragement. At Seton Hall I teach a graduate course mainly for teachers, entitled Jewish and Christian Foundations for Social Service.

Service learning is a growing phenomenon in schools today. The teachers
visit several sites where such social service programs are underway, like
the permanent residence hotel for people with schizophrenia (former
homeless people) in New York. One graduate of the Jewish-Christian Studies program is a teacher in a Hebrew school, who initiated a program with her students, of designing, building and maintaining (over five years now) a community garden in Flemington, NJ. Such programs bring people of various faiths and political persuasions together for meaningful enterprises. I especially appreciate your initiative in this regard. I'll share your commentary with my students this fall with the firm belief that it will
rally troops to this constructive cause.

-- Prof. David Bossman, Seton Hall University and part-time Charleston resident

Recent feedback:

KEEPING TRACK
Ahead on Medicaid again

This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report with other media reports:

In Statehouse Report:

8/14/05: 8/14/05: Medicaid plan looks risky, costly: "Some may admire the Sanford administration for trying to do something about Medicaid, but at this point, the proposal seems like it has too much of a chance of hurting the poor, elderly and children. They shouldn't be experimental subjects to test a Republican political theory...Go back to the drawing board. "

In the Charleston City Paper

8/24/05: Sanford wants the poor to develop more character by spending money they don't have: "What The Eye doesn’t get is that most of these fiscal conservative types who want to rid the nation of the menace of social programs characterize themselves as Christians. The Eye finds that they choose to ignore Christ’s essential directives to feed the hungry, comfort the afflicted, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned when they rationalize their legislative aims by declaiming “choice” and “personal responsibility.” And as for Mark Sanford, mused The Eye, somebody needs to remind him that poverty is not a character flaw.


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Graham. Hats off to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for calling for congressional hearings on oil company profits as gas prices soared out of control.

SAT. The state's SAT scores, while still at the bottom, continue to go up, which indicates the schools are getting better.

Ethics Commission. Remember just a couple of months ago when the State Ethics Commission said it would take months to get an online campaign disclosure system ready? All of the criticism that floated its way apparently got the commission off the pot. The system will start in January for constitutional officers.

Clyburn, Coble. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-SC, and Columbia Mayor Bob Coble are to be congratulated for trying to help hurricane victims in Columbia.

Thumbs down

Cigarette tax. Now that NC has raised its cigarette tax, SC has the lowest tax in the nation. Guys -- when are you going to wake up and raise the tax to generate revenues to shore up health costs?

Sanford. The governor was a week past the deadline to send a letter of support for a new nuclear facility in Aiken. Doesn't seem like the guy can get it together.

Hollings. Didn't Michael Hollings check out the law before he announced he was going to run for lieutenant governor? What was he thinking?

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