Squandering Resources For Profit
Wednesday - March 19, 2008
I walk frequently at the Central Oahu Regional Park - renamed, now, the Patsy T. Mink Regional Park. I’m a great fan of the place: its first-rate baseball and softball facilities, its abundance of tennis courts, its archery range and Olympicsized swimming pool and its soccer fields.
Add the walking paths, the views of the Waianae Range and the Ewa plain and you have a recreational facility worthy of the taxpayers who paid for it all. Indeed, I offer it my highest praise: It’s worth the cost of the overruns and whatever political shenanigans it took to build it.
Too often, however, I leave the park in despair - not at the Little Leaguers playing ball, or those Patsy Mink, Title IX girls running the bases on those softball fields.
No, it’s the content of the parking lots that grieve me: Vans, trucks and SUVs prevail. No modern Hawaii family seems content with, say, a four-door sedan. Nope, gotta have something big enough not just for Mom, Pop, Junior and Princess, but for Junior’s or Princess’s whole %&^$#@ Little League team as well.
Think that’s bad. On the weekends when the young men’s softball leagues play - Holy Crow! - it’s enough to drive an aging liberal to tears: Trucks of every size, but mostly large to XXL trucks, fill the adjacent parking stalls. These guys buy big.
And voraciously gas-guzzling. Over the past 40 years, Detroit - despite the gas lines of the 1970s and the continued erosion of finite world oil reserves - built both its vehicles and its profits as big as it possibly could. And compliant, anti-regulatory congresses and presidents haven’t mandated higher fleet mileage requirements since the 1970s. Instead, Congress and the most-recent president and vice president have preferred to go to war for oil rather than impose higher mileage requirements.
So what happens?
The price of oil goes up - to $3.49 per gallon at the Pearl City gas pump I visited last week; folks who play and park at the park are paying $80, $90, $100 a tank to drive Junior and his team to the game. Across the country, people are turning their backs on the new SUVs, vans and trucks on the car lots, once-mighty Chrysler Corporation is shutting down for a couple of weeks this summer to save money, and Detroit now brags to be home to the Nowhere-near-so-Big Three of the world auto industry.
But mandate higher mileage requirements for autos sold in the United States under oil man and dead-certain-about-everything George W. Bush? Not on your life or your pocketbook. Just suck it up folks, and pay - at the pump and in the SUV you’ll never be able to sell. Call it the very large Dallas-to-Detroit tax and pay, pay, pay - but never accept a mandate.
In Honolulu, however, the Hawaii State Legislature is talking mandate; a bill is alive in both Senate and House mandating that, beginning Jan. 1, 2010, all new houses constructed in the state include solar water heating units.
Needless to say, Hawaiian Electric Company (which sells oil-produced energy) is opposed. So too are the building and solar industry, arguing that mandating solar heaters would unfairly increase the costs for home buyers.
Huh? Since when have Hawaii’s home-builders and developers been so concerned about driving up the costs for home buyers? And at $5,600 per system in a world of $3.49 today, $4 per gallon this summer, only the gods know how much per gallon by Jan. 1, 2010, a mandated solar water heater may be the most attractive feature of the house.
Why is the solar industry opposed to the measure?
I’m not entirely sure.
A year ago I wrote in support of a similar bill sponsored by Kauai Sen. Gary Hooser. In post-e-mail-haste, I received a long, detailed message from a friend in the solar business excoriating Hooser for his duplicity and me for my stupidity.
I’ll accept the stupid charge on a lot of counts on a lot of issues. But there’s more than a little stupidity at work on the part of consumers, electricity producers and car manufacturers who insist that mandates are somehow unAmerican in a world where they squander one of the world’s precious resources in the interest of their profits or the comfort of Junior and his whole Little League team.
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