Thursday, May 7, 2009

Legislature’s Final Days Include Votes to Increase Oil Tax, Promote Renewable Energy Development

4:45 pm Update: “HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii’s per barrel tax on distributors of petroleum is due to rise under legislation that the House and Senate passed Thursday and sent to the governor.

The measure would raise the levy from 5 cents to $1.05 and generate $31 million annually for alternative energy projects and food safety programs. It could cost consumers 2 to 3 cents more per gallon of gasoline.”

The Governor today vetoed other tax hikes passed by the Legislature, but since renewable energy advancement is one of her priorities, there’s no reason to believe she'll veto this one.

The egg we had for breakfast two days ago after wiping it off our face had a bad taste, so we’re treading carefully in assessing the status of energy-related bills in the last days of the Hawaii State Legislature's 2009 session. Over-reliance on government websites can be humbling.

Nevertheless, two bills are up for final passage on the floors of both houses today. HB 1271 increases the per-barrel tax “…on each barrel or fractional part of a barrel of petroleum product sold by a distributor to any retail dealer or end user, other than a refiner, of petroleum product….” The bill splits up the proposed $1 increase into several funds that support energy and agriculture sustainability in the islands.

The bill’s introduction is a good description of Hawaii’s fossil fuel energy dependence problem, beginning with: “Hawaii is at a crossroads. As the most geographically isolated state in the country, we are dangerously dependent on imports for basic food and energy needs.” It’s a sobering reminder of why renewable energy development must happen here.

Getting By on Half a Loaf

HB 1464 was the cause of our aforementioned chagrin. Its original form would have banned construction of future fossil fuel power plants. Had it passed, Hawaii would have gone boldly where none had gone before, sending a clear message to the world that the state is open for green energy business.

But timidity prevailed over courage, and the watered-down version is a shadow of its former self. Still, the renewable energy portfolio standards have been strengthened.

We await today’s floor action in the Legislature and will post on the results – after obtaining triple confirmation. Our taste for egg isn't what it used to be.

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