Monday, February 1, 2010

Green tech, off-topic on taxes, rainwater capture, and a new blog

© 2010 Joshua Stark

A couple of links for the day, with a bit of commentary.

Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee has an interesting story on green tech in California, and whether and how we can keep it growing here. He focuses on bureaucracy and taxes as problems in keeping green businesses here. I'd like to add that we've really put ourselves in a pickle by getting used to exorbitantly low property taxes. Yes, I'll touch California's political third rail in my blog, and from an economics angle:

Do you think the total prices paid by people to purchase homes in California, was honestly lower in the subsequent 30 years after its passage? That's rhetorical - no, they weren't any lower than they otherwise would have been. The extra profit that would otherwise have gone into schools, roads, and social programs in the state instead went directly into sellers' pockets, and into inflating a housing bubble. This is because California's greatest, most valuable asset is its location. Property taxes are higher in Ohio, they are higher in Texas. In Texas. Yet, Texas government is considered the new way to do things right. Maybe it is, and we should follow suit by raising our property taxes.

Now, California has to make up for lost revenue because it gave up its share of land prices. In the meantime, our schools are worse, our air quality is worse, our job prospects are worse, and we rely too heavily on regressive (sales) taxes and taxes that the wealthiest among us can more easily opt out of (income taxes don't work at the state level to any great degree). Also, our property values yo-yo terribly, but were still out of the range of the fixed-income folks we pretended to protect when we passed Prop. 13.

On to better news: The L.A. Times reports that the city of Los Angeles will soon (hopefully) require rainwater recapture in new, large building projects. This is great, amazing news, both for their local beaches and ocean, but also for, eventually, those of us in the Delta who would like to see L.A. become even more self-sufficient. We need good, mass technology that provides easy cleaning of rainwater for home use, and I see this as just one more step in that direction.

Tangentially, I've done some dabbling in rainwater capture numbers, and I believe, in Sacramento, a typical small home could capture enough rainwater for two months or so of their typical use from their roof.

Last, I wanted to link to the new Planning and Conservation League blog. These are good folks - any group whose annual symposium can get funded by Tejon Ranch and the National Wildlife Federation is doing something right. They are plugged into the state environmental scene to a great deal.

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