CE3 Offers "Provacative" Policy Options that Include Federal Gas Tax Boost, State Energy Cabinet

September 18, 2006

A report from a workshop involving more than 100 private and public energy experts recommended Monday creation of a governor's "energy cabinet" to coordinate activities among state agencies, and an increase in the federal gasoline tax.

Those suggestions were among 150 "provocative, bipartisan" policy options outlined in "Ohio: Securing America's Energy Future" that Ohio University's Consortium for Energy, Economics and the Environment (CE3) released.

U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined OU President Roderick McDavis at a Columbus briefing on the document that grew out of an energy summit in March. The report noted that neither the senator nor the university necessarily endorsed any of the specific recommendations. The report concluded that Ohio, a net energy importer and the fifth-largest consumer of overall energy resources in the nation, could change from being overly reliant on external sources to become more energy independent.

"Government need not be in the business of commanding or dictating to the private sector how to solve this current energy crisis," the report said.

"Government can get Ohio's businesses and citizens orientated in the proper direction with data and information to validate choices made in the marketplace," it said. "Governments can also open markets for new technologies and services."

Among the public policy options:

  • An unspecified increase in the federal gasoline tax with revenues earmarked for fuel transmission facilities, new pumps, truck stop electrification, and grants to develop next generation fuels.
  • Consideration by the next governor of incentives to encourage the production, promotion, and distribution of biofuels.
  • Change the basis for state taxation of motor fuels to BTU content instead of volume.
  • Creation of a governor's energy cabinet to coordinate state energy activities across departments and agencies, and formation of an office of land use and planning to recommend "holistic approaches" for redevelopment and transportation, with an emphasis on energy and fuel savings.
  • A 50% increase in energy efficiency requirements of the Ohio Building Code.
  • Creation of a governor's office to coordinate energy education efforts statewide

Sen. Voinovich said he spent about four hours Friday with manufacturers who complained about costs of natural gas and electricity, a concern that homeowners share.

"Just ask any residential ratepayer and they'll tell you about their natural gas costs. They're down a little bit right now but they're going to be bumping back up again, and if we have a bad winter it's going to be terrible," the former governor said.

"Everywhere you go with manufacturers they're talking about electricity, and the cost of electricity. And the issue is can we do something about that. Even the homeowners are talking about the cost of their electricity," he said.

Sen. Voinovich suggested reporters ought to ask gubernatorial candidates Ted Strickland and Ken Blackwell what they intend to do about the energy crisis.

"How are you going to achieve the ambient air standards so that in 2010 we don't see many of our communities in very bad shape in terms of whether businesses will expand or whether businesses will come to the state of Ohio to do business?" he said.

President McDavis said the consortium represents a sizeable portion of Ohio University's faculty researchers.

"More than 20 faculty across eleven departments and two colleges are actively contributing to the applications-based research in these fields," he said. "This year alone, these researchers are working on more than 20 externally funded projects that have brought millions of dollars to southeast Ohio."