Give Hawaii’s people a much deserved win: Don’t slash solar tax credits

The Aloha State has the opportunity to become the world’s leader in renewable energy. Photo: President Obama tours a solar facility. (AP File Photo/Charles Dharapak)

HONOLULU, January 10, 2013 – With energy costs skyrocketing due to a combination of inflation and China’s voracious consumption of fossil fuels, a crisis of civilization will not be far off if policymakers do not allow markets and individuals the freedom to pursue clean, renewable energy.

Nowhere else in the United States is the urgent need for abundant, affordable energy more apparent than Hawaii, a state that according to the Energy Information Administration’s most recent report imported 94 percent of its energy in 2010 and had the highest electricity prices in the nation that year. Across Hawaii, many people are struggling to pay for the rising cost of utilities even as they continue to worry about the demands of food, healthcare and supporting their families.

In spite of these challenges, Hawaii’s current tax law which provides income credits for renewable energy has allowed the islands over the last few years to see a boom of clean energy jobs as residents and businesses alike pursue solar panels as a means to offset rising costs, but this nascent success will not last long if the state administration slashes the credits in favor of pursuing revenues.

Though it is understandable that inflationary pressures and the ongoing global financial crisis have strapped state and federal budgets alike, seeking revenues by slashing credits that people have built jobs and private cost-savings around is a punitive way of balancing the budget.

Whenever government provides a tax credit or an incentive, markets and people alike should not be penalized for making full use of the opportunities and rewards that come by participation in the program. In 2012, renewable energy tax credits in Hawaii totaled more than $173 million, whereas in 2010 that amount was only $34 million. This is a testimony to the success, not failure of tax credits, as this money ultimately goes towards private capital creation, higher demand for jobs, more production and ultimately more money to make life in the islands a little less hard than it already is.

The rising cost of fuel prices has greatly impacted the United States’ national security posture. (U.S. Air Force file photo)

There are very dangerous economic and geopolitical shifts occurring in the world today which make access to affordable, renewable energy a top priority. As it is, the rising price of oil has created a national security hazard in which our military budget is imperiled by the cost of fuel. In FY2011, the U.S. Air Force alone spent $8.3 billion on fuel consumption of its $9.7 billion dollar energy budget.

These are warning signs that cannot be ignored. If Hawaii, America’s most remote state can achieve energy independence, it will be a model for the rest of the United States – and the West – to follow.

The legendary inventor Thomas Edison famously told Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone that “We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”

Edison’s sagacity should be fully embraced before America goes over the 21st century energy abyss. Give the people a win for once. Hawaii and the rest of America need to fully support solar tax credits as the first step towards the bright future our people all deserve. 

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Danny de Gracia

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs committees at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, Danny has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. Now working on his first novel, Danny resides on the island of Oahu.

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