Thursday, October 19, 2006

Political Issues: Alternative Energy

I'm a nut for technology so it should be no surprise that I find fuel cells (hydrogen power) and other technologically advanced forms of alternative energy, fascinating. While it may seem a good idea to mandate their use, it's just not feasible right now. However, there are some practical things that can be done. If I were making energy policy for Arizona here are some of the things I would include.

1) Allow any vehicle that gets greater than 40 miles to the gallon (by EPA standards) to use the carpool/HOV lanes. This would encourage those buying cars to commute to get high mileage cars that, while not as stylish, can cut half an hour or more from their commute time.

2) End the policy that lets alternative fuel vehicles that can still run on gasoline use the carpool/HOV lanes. Most AFV cars and trucks that can use gas, do. That negates the environmental benefit and so their perks should be negated as well. I would make an exception for fleets that can prove they do not use gas in their cars.

3) Bring E85 into the state. E85 is a mixture of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. Ethanol burns 30% cleaner than gas as well as being produced locally (thus improving the economy while reducing dependence on foreign oil). Ford, GM, Chrysler, and a few others already make cars that are E85 ready (will run on E85 or regular gasoline). This would reduce pollution, add business to the state, and reduce dependence on foriegn oil. There are only four stations in Arizona (all in the Tucson area) that offer E85, I would expand it. I'm still working out the best way to do this but here are a couple of ideas:
A) Mandate that every gas station in the state offer E85 within 5 years. This may not be realistic even if the state offered interest free loans to pay for it but a feasibility study would be worthwhile. The logic is that if E85 were accessible, people would use it (it is currently cheaper than gasoline).
B) Offer tax incentives to stations that offer E85. If the new pumps pay for themselves in a couple of years, then stations will be more willing to install them.
C) Offer incentives to companies that will produce E85 in Arizona. It brings jobs to Arizona and only really costs what we're paying the Middle East for gas (no net loss and probably a nice gain on employment and taxes).
D) Offer HOV use to those people who permanently modify their cars to use E85.

4) Encourage the use of solar power. The more we generate our own power, the less we pollute and the more resilience we have to power fluctuations.
A) Require all commercial and government buildings to use solar panels whenever feasible (ie when the building isn't shaded half the day or doesn't have a roof that wouldn't allow the use of solar panels for some reason).
B) Offer a payment plan for residential homes that would let them put solar panels on their roof and have their payment be the difference between the power bill and what it would have been if they didn't have the solar panels (so their power bill doesn't change until the solar panels are paid off).

If the state could implement these ideas then, in just a few years, we could reduce air pollution and all of its health side-effects, reduce our dependence on foriegn oil, and add jobs to the state (which would increase tax revenues). Is there a downside?

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