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John Hall - Fighting for a Greener America?

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Rep. John Hall (NY 19th C.D.) announced today that he is signing on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 539, or the "Buildings for the 21st Century Act". The legislation, proposed in January of 2007, would increase existing tax deductions to commercial property owners that make energy efficiency improvements that reduce energy use by 50% or more. The legislation would also increase deductions for improvements to ighting, building envelope, or heating and cooling systems that meet target levels of energy savings.

For Rep. Hall's press release, click here

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For the full text of the legislation, click here

I am not the most savvy person when it comes to the workings of Congress, so I have to wonder out loud over a couple of points:

1. Is this really relevant considering that Rep. Hall would be the 144th Congressperson to sign on as a co-sponsor to this bill, and

2. If my skepticism about point 1 is warranted, is this just another grandstanding move (ala Chuck Schumer) to draw the public's attention away from the announcement by Kieran Michael Lalor that he will run against Hall for his House seat next November.

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I'm almost willing to give Mr. Hall the benefit of the doubt on this one, especially since I know that he has pushed for energy independence since he has been in office, including advancement in biofuel and wind energy production.

What I believe is more important though, is the federal incentive program for homeowners that wish to convert to solarthermal heating or solar photo-voltaic power systems. The feds will give homeowners a tax credit of 30%, up to $2,000 for the purchase of either type of system. By comparison, a New York State tax credit caps off at $5,000.

I recently took an estimate on a solarthermal heating system for my home. For a $20,000 investment, I could only expect my oil consumption to be cut in half, with a return on investment timeframe of 8 years. That's with the $7,000 combined Fed and State tax credits considered in the calculation.

If Mr. Hall and his peers in Congress really care about global warming and the middle class like they say they do, I would much rather that they work toward better tax incentives to the "regular guy" in addition to the commercial land owners.

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