Energy guzzler tax for homes?

columbiascJuly 23, 2008

I generally lean towards the right so I surprise myself with this thought, but here it goes. If I go out and buy a Bentley or Ferrari, part of the purchase price includes a gas guzzler tax. Have we reached a point at which buyers should have to pay a similar fee for buying outlandishly large and inefficient homes?

I live in a 1024sf home. One of my employees, a young married woman with no children was recently talking about her 1200sf MASTER BEDROOM! I have hit a point in my life where this type of consumption seems obscene. I still belive in the free market, but if we have to "pay to play" with vehicles, why shouldn't we have to do the same with anyhting that consumes energy?

The only way to learn is to hear both sides of an issue so let's chat.

~ Scott ~

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Wow, for a guy from the 'right' (obviously with loads of integrity though :-), you sure came up with a good one! Sounds like a great idea, but I think people like that (your employee) may learn faster from maturing (and having to clean a huge place) than from such an imposed tax which, in fact, has shades of very left-wingism (though that's normally where I would be from compared to you I think!). Reminds of trying to regulate how many kids people have. However, taxing more in general for places that don't make an effort to use 'green' materials, or that are wasteful with energy resources once built could certainly be looked into, and I hope other people come up with some creative ideas here too.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 6:04AM
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I definately don't fit "the mold" for the right but I am fiscally conservative, see the need for a strong military and oppose socialist leanings. I still think the free market works pretty well if left alone. I also don't give a hoot about who sleeps with who. I voted for Steve Forbes in the 2000 primary but I read Eckhart Tolle, Dan Millman and similar authors and am trying to walk a more enlightened path. Once we get around a few hot-button issues, we are probably more alike than you think. If not, we wouldn't be here, right?

I guess we all have hot buttons that put us more on the left or right than our core beliefs on certain issues so maybe those labels have become outdated.

With all that said, you have to admit that builders and buyers need a gentle push towards thinking about efficiency. An Energy Abuse Tax could be that nudge.

I read your "Lucky Strike" posting. I'm glad you found a place that feeds your soul. That is a priceless feeling.

Off to work!

~ Scott ~

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 7:31AM
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I live in a state which has drought years. Four years ago my city added a percentage fee for water overuse. Made so much sense to me with huge homes and their monster golf course lawns. The following year those who had to pay this fee were credited back. They probably spent more money implementing the program and never really saved our water resources. Eludes common sense.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 10:04AM
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I haven't the vaguest idea whether I'm 'left' or 'right'. I suspect I'm in the middle of the road; if so, it's one that has lots of hairpin curves. The view keeps changing depending on where I'm at.

I'm inclined to think an Energy Abuse Tax is not going to be needed. Fuel prices are just going to continue going up. Okay, the cost is going down at the present, but it's still twice to three or more times expensive as it was just two years ago.

Only a couple months ago, Texas oilman Mr. Pickens had an interesting sentence in one of his commentaries, to the effect that he expected oil to cost over $300 a barrel within a couple years. Even I understand that means fuel [gasoline, diesel, oil, and the electricity produced by oil-fired generators] will be equivalently more expensive. Those of us who maintain smaller homes are going to be paying far less to heat/cool the smaller volume than are those folks who have pseudo-mansion sized houses.

emagineer ~ I approve of excess-usage fees for water. However, I am appalled that there was any "credit back". If they used it, they should pay for it. Whether the water is used for irrigation or for 3-gallon flushes, there is a choice in how much is used, and excessive usage *should* cost the user.

Actually, I'd like to see a realistic user fee placed on all municipal water, based on the number of people in the house... not the size of the house or how much water was used last year (which is how my local water company computes); but solely on the number of bodies per residence. It doesn't take high math to compute [say] 30 gallons [for personal cleansing, dish & clothes washing], multiplied by the number of people, multiplied by the days billed. Use more, pay more.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 12:06PM
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If there were one I think it should be for building the home initially not buying it later on. After all once its built its built and isn't going anywhere so someone has to buy it or it gets ripped down which would be equally or more wasteful. As far as I know there is not such tax for buying a used Bentley (or is there?).

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 5:12PM
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People in large homes already pay addtional costs that are incorporated into their property taxes and for as long as I can remember, utility companies have charged for usage on a graduating scale, so if you use more energy than the averages say you should, you end up paying more for it, regardless of the size of your home.

I don't agree that there should be rules for this or rules for that, because we're already slowly becoming what seems to be a police state and regulated for EVERYTHING. Instead, I believe people just need to become more aware of the enviromental issues we face and as time passes, that's gradually happening. I remember back in the 70's our streets, parks and neighborhoods were completely littered with trash, and the "Give a hoot, don't polute" campaign was born. Now peer pressure makes it really hard for the majority to feel comforable enough to litter. There are laws in place to give room for serious offenders to be held accountable but really it's public peer pressure that keeps it in check. I have no doubt the same process will happen with going green.

Many countries in Europe are already leaps and bounds ahead of us in this regard (and when converted to American dollars), they also now pay 13-15 dollars per gallon of gas.

I'm not an advocate for large homes nor do I agree with the indulgent spending of today's generations, quite the opposite, but I'm strongly against regulating every little thing just because a group of people doesn't agree with anothers choice, especially about such a personal and funamental issue like one's home. This is afterall supposed to be a free country, based on free enterprise. As a people in general, we work harder than any other country in the free world, I'll be darn if I'd allow someone to impose on my right to spend my money however I choose, especially in regards to what home I choose to purchase and/or raise my family in. This is afterall a free country, and I personally would like it to stay that way.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 8:18PM
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Lukkiirish, I have never heard about high-using residents being charged at a higher rate for utilities. How does that work?

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 8:42PM
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Due to my DH job, from 2004 - 2006 we had to move 3 different times, and each time we did, I would scrutinize our utility bills for budgeting purposes. The one thing I always noticed was that once our usage hit a specific "cap", we would be charged more for the remaining usuage for that month. This was especially true for gas. I just looked at my bills so I could point to you exactly where it is, but can't find it now, I guess we haven't gone over that cap recently. Which makes sense because we've been really trying to eliminate unnecessary usage. Another clear example of this that comes to mind is water usage in warmer or drout prone states. We now have well water so I'm not sure what the policy for the local water works here is, but when we lived in California it was very common.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2008 at 8:20AM
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A taxation scheme that includes both a carrot and a stick might be part of the solution (there isn't any ONE solution). The code would include a generous, meaningful tax credit for installing energy efficient improvements into a house and significant penalties that most people would not want to pay for new construction that fails to meet certain minimum standards. The penalty part would be hard to enforce because it means regulations and most people who do not like regulations find a way around them. But it is possible to write the code in very clear, simple terms so it might be nearly impossible to circumvent it without triggering a great big tax bill. The risk, of course, is that such a code would have to be arbitrary, and many many exceptions would eventually come up because life is like that.

Aside from that idea, we do very much need new technology that is easy and inexpensive to install and that saves a lot of energy. We are very close to that goal in several areas, and need to do a better job of educating the public about these improvements and figure out ways of getting people to take the initiative. The alternative energy forum on this website gives many examples.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 10:14PM
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The only problem with 'significant penalties' on a house that didn't meet certain standards is that it would impact the people who can afford it least- those who can barely afford a house in the first place. For example, the materials for ICF or SIP construction are both still way more expensive than conventional stick construction. Geothermal heat and A/C are great- if you can afford it. Current code calls for adequate insulation; anything significantly better can get expensive, putting marginal people out of the market. Maybe above a certain size, where you can be sure it would only impact people who can afford it?

Unfortunately, I think that right now there is some price gouging going on in products that are labeled 'green', which is slowing the entry of these products into the mainstream. Geothermal, for example is very expensive, even before you factor in the price of the wells. It's not rocket science- you're using cool (or warm) water on the coils instead of air. The prices I've seen so far or so high, that the system would have to be replaced before it saved enough money to pay for itself. Why would I want that?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 9:18AM
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This was discussed on one of the other forums I frequent, and some of the responses were that their utility companies were already imposing penalties in the form of a higher cost per unit of a utility when it exceeds the norm. I very much agree with that principle. I live in what was once considered a large house, but by today's standards probably isn't. Economics of our budget dictate how we spend our energy dollars. We anticipated the sharp increase in utility rates and spent the money before it happened in improvements geared toward conservation to cut our utility bills in half. Since the rapid increases, I sometime think we're back to square one, but then I think of what we COULD be paying had we not done this.

Yes, we can rule and regulate ourselves to death, and a lot of what we consider socially acceptable is peer pressure, but many of us live in areas where the infrastructure of our utility companies just aren't there to support the massive trend toward building mansions. We can't really expect the demand to be settled by 'free market' because heat/light/water are necessities and in order to provide the bare minimum of habitation they're being priced out of reach in order that our finite supply of energy resources can be used to heat and cool five bedroom homes occupied by two people. Increases in pricing does bring on decreased demand, but it's bottom-heavy. Those who can least afford to pay the costs are those who do the most conserving. Those at the top of the pyramid just see a little less disposable income. We all pay out subsidies to utility companies with each bill in order to bring electric to rural areas, entice industries in for jobs with all sorts of incentives supported by our tax dollars, and with assistance to those in poverty situations. Our billing is a Rube Goldberg accumulations of formulas and objectives. But, this isn't a luxury like a Hummer or a cruise. Somehow, it has to be meted out fairly so that someone doesn't freeze to death so that another can heat their dog's swimming pool. Unlimited consumption of energy and water isn't a "right" it's a priviledge from a public utility.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2008 at 4:41AM
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