There are very few things that we need in today’s world that are free. Right now, I can think of two, the air we breathe and using the sun’s warmth, or energy; not even water is free. Indeed, this is why I love using a clothesline – I can dry my clothes for free.

Right now, this week, there is a bill (HB340) that has passed out of the Missouri House of Representatives House Utilities Committee that would charge solar customers more. Representative Fitzwater (R-Holts Summit) proposed this bill that would allow utilities to charge an additional 75 percent “solar tax” on solar owners. So, for example, if your fixed customer charge is $20 a month, then your utility could charge you an additional $15 solar tax. Thirty-five dollars a month may still sound like cheap energy, but think of the thousands and thousands of dollars these homeowners and small businesses have already invested in their solar equipment. They were hoping for small utility bills to offset these huge investment costs.

Surely, anyone looking at installing solar would now be dissuaded from doing so. Current solar customers invested their own money and signed contracts with certain expectations of minimal energy costs. Not only that, but the solar industry has created more than 3,000 high-tech and blue collar jobs all over Missouri that cannot be outsourced. Solar is the fastest growing energy job sector nationwide, and in Missouri. Missourians have already fought hard to bring and keep solar energy to the state. (Remember the whole Proposition C debacle!)

According to ReNew Missouri, the Public Utilities Commission in Nevada “…made a decision to lower the compensation rate for solar customers. Solar sales dropped 92% in the next year and thousands of jobs left the state forcing the Nevada Commission to undo its decision. We must not become the next Nevada.”

Why is it that legislators are so against solar power? Thus far, 14 states have tried to impose a similar solar tax, and it has been defeated in each case. Missouri would be the only state in the Union to impose a separate solar tax. I would hope that Missourians would rise to the occasion and want their state to be known for progressive energy standards, not backwater, hillbilly methods of taxing progressive thinkers – and doers!

Imagine you are home shopping and you find the perfect house; the cherry on the top is that its energy is supplied by solar energy. The solar panels not only collect enough energy to run the household, you can actually sell the energy back to the power grid. Shouldn’t we be able to take advantage of free energy without having to be taxed for it? In the future, will we all be hooked up to meters measuring every breath we take and being taxed for the amount of air we breathe? When is the taxation going to stop!

Do something about this. Call your representative today, right now, and tell them you do not want “free” energy taxed! They need to defeat HB340. What’s next, being taxed for my clothesline?

-- Lynn Youngblood is the Executive Director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net