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Energy Conservation Tax Rebates

Tax breaks for the energy efficient
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Of course, the obvious way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to increase efficiency, reduce fossil fuel use, stop deforestation, and recycle.

But it seems there is always strong resistance from the fiscally conservative, claiming a detrimental economic effect of any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

So let us do the following: measure each individual's annual use of electricity, gas, and water. At the end of the year, if that individual has either cut their own energy use by a given percentage designed to meet an acceptable CO2 emissions target by a given year, or if their energy use is consistently below the national average by a given amount; they will see a generous and proportionate increase in their income tax rebate for that year. It could be normalized by income, so that a wealthy person with a mansion who cut his energy use by some small amount does not benefit more than a middle-class person who made large cuts in his energy use.

We could apply the same logic to people and companies who invest in energy-efficient appliances and install power-saving and resource-saving features such as weather stripping, greywater systems, solar panels, etc. A similar system is under consideration in California.

Essentially, you would get refunded in part for the expense of installing the energy-efficient upgrades to your building. For those who purchase energy-efficient appliances, we could apply a lowered sales tax -- for example, an energy-efficient washing machine or low-flow toilet would have only 3% sales tax on it, while a normal one might have an 8% sales tax.

I think that this would readily address the problems that fiscal conservatives have with environmental regulations. In essence, we are not taxing emissions at all, but rather giving positive encouragement by lowering taxes in areas we wish to encourage.

qt75rx1, Apr 08 2008

Usage quantization http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ration_stamp
When you get it to work, I think it'll look like this. Plus a black market, of course. [lurch, Apr 09 2008]


       //a wealthy person with a mansion who cut his energy use by some small amount does not benefit more than a middle-class person who made large cuts in his energy use.// In which case, where's my incentive?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 08 2008

       I think you've invented carbon credits.
Texticle, Apr 08 2008

       [Maxwell]: I was just saying that it wouldn't be in terms of raw numbers. For example, if you were a wealthy man who owned a mansion, you could've easily cut your energy use by, say, a thousand BTUs by installing a few fluorescent lights. But a poor man would have to work much harder and make more changes in his life -- turning off his lights most of the day, buying lots of energy-efficient appliances, etc. -- to cut his use by the same thousand BTUs.   

       [Texticle], your sarcasm is duly noted. Let me point out the difference, however, between tax breaks and carbon credits: one is a reduction in someone's income taxes, based on energy and water usage, producing a corresponding increase in one's year end tax rebates. The latter is a "credit" one gets for not emitting a set unit of carbon dioxide which one can sell on a carbon credits exchange to those who want to buy carbon credits in order to allow themselves to produce CO2 without net emissions.
qt75rx1, Apr 08 2008

       /measure each individual's annual use of electricity, gas, and water/   

       How? Household metering doesn't separate out individual usage, much of an individual's electricity use could be done away from home, same for water, gas (gasoline) can be paid for with cash and cannot be reconciled with individual use, gas (natural gas) as above, blah blah blah.   

       Like carbon credits, this sounds like a poorly thought out knee-jerk scheme that would only result in more money going towards those capable of creative accounting, while simultaneously having no effect on total consumption.
Texticle, Apr 09 2008

       You bring up a good point, [Text]. I suppose I'd meant household use. What would you propose to fix it?
qt75rx1, Apr 09 2008

       What is the problem statement (sorting out the environment, or accurately determining individual/household use of a few select commodities)?   

       I don't believe the latter is very useful with regard to the former.
Texticle, Apr 09 2008

       //I was just saying that it wouldn't be in terms of raw numbers.//   

       [qt] I take your point, but in that case I have no incentive to save a thousand BTUs: I need the rebate less, and yet the money I'd get is even less than some guy who needs the money more. I already pay more taxes (both in absolute terms, and in relative terms if I'm on a higher tax band), so why would I be keen to get a smaller rebate for reducing my energy budget?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 09 2008

       I see your point there, [Maxwell]. But, thinking in terms of national energy use, the aggregate number of lower and middle income people probably use more energy than the top one percent or so high-income earners for whom there is less incentive to save energy.   

       [Texticle]: Presumably the problem is to get people to accept energy conservation without a heavy-handed, punitive tax measure, such as directly taxing gasoline purchases or oil producers. My idea, to give tax breaks to encourage reduced energy consumption, is just an attempt at positive, rather than negative encouragement.   

       Yes, of course there's difficulties in resolving per-capita energy use, so perhaps we'd be forced to rely on tracking household energy and water usage as a crude measure. Furthermore, perhaps gasoline purchases could be electronically monitored, and information about vehicle mileage could be obtained during mandatory inspections, along with the smog check.   


       Let me add as an additional note that a similar tax incentive scheme might be applied to corporations, depending on the type of industry and its annual power usage. The sliding scale of incentive would have to be changed, of course, but the main idea would still remain: to encourage tax relief for those who save energy.   

       Let me reiterate: those who save energy under this system, have two primary incentives -- that their own energy bills will be reduced in the long-term, and the immediate short-term injection of recompense from the government for the trouble they took to save energy. That means they stand to benefit twice from the measures they took -- in savings, and in an immediate payoff.
qt75rx1, Apr 10 2008


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