End The Perverse Incentives Effect On Renewable Energy

TreeHugger's window to the world makes it easy to focus on great new designs. But, it also makes it easy to ignore the extremely important role of state and local government in promoting or, as unfortunately has happened in a few recent cases, retarding the spread of green technologies. We recently posted on the example of the elderly Illinois couple threatened with felony prosecution for using untaxed, waste vegetable oil as a motor fuel. Whether by intent or by coincidence, the enforcement appeared to single them out for being "different," for taking chances with new designs, for spreading the word about innovations. Especially in times of great social and technological change, appearance matters. Taxing early, vocal adapters of veggie-diesel sends the message that motor fuel customers should passively wait for big government and big corporations to tell them what to do. Having just finished posting on that, it was very disappointing when yet another example of the "perverse incentive" appeared in "The Times" of New Jersey, under the headline Save on energy, pay in taxes. Just like the Illinois couple, the New Jersey family took a green step forward and then found themselves driven back two steps by a perverse tax policy. "It seems when they installed the system, the Rouses fell victim to a little-known and apparently scarcely used glitch in the property tax laws that allows the township to treat the panels like a home improvement to be taxed, despite several state programs in place to encourage the use of solar and other renewable energy". New York Times offered this insight on the matter: "The maddening aspect is that the state itself made the higher assessment possible. Solar panels were exempt from property taxes until 1988, but when that exemption expired, Trenton issued an advisory encouraging local assessors to tax them". Fortunately, there has been no lack of good leadership reacting to these two issues. Time for state legislative committees to have a pro-active, systematic look at tax policies. End the perverse incentives before any more families have to go through such nonsense. Image credit: Off Grid Net.