- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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April 27

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on highway crash fatalities in the state:

The collection of photographs at the front of the church reflected a lot of smiling faces. But the people looking at them Saturday and every other day have an empty hole of sadness.

The photographs were of people killed in highway crashes this past year in South Carolina. They were on display at the S.C. Department of Public Safety’s 30th annual Memorial Service to remember the victims from 2017 - more than 1,000 people.

The service, sandwiched between Easter and Mother’s Day each year, brings together families and friends of the deceased.

Those in attendance at Bible Way of Atlas Road on Saturday heard Pastor Randall “Mack” Jackson deliver the Message of Hope. He said the message was words of encouragement for all those grieving at the loss of loved ones and friends.

Phil Riley, director of the Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs, said, “The Department of Public Safety holds many events throughout the year, and we consider this service as one of the most important because we’re gathered with the people who have suffered the ultimate loss: that of a loved one, that of someone close to you.”

DPS Director Leroy Smith acknowledged the pain felt by so many.

“Traffic collisions leave a wound that hurts in a way few other losses do. Traffic deaths often occur suddenly, leaving many without the opportunity to say that last ‘goodbye,’ or that last ‘I love you’ to their loved one, or to hold their loved one just one more time,” Smith said.

“The reality of your loss and pain continues to drive us all toward our mission of Target Zero highway fatalities. We believe that the only acceptable number - when talking about highway deaths - is zero. We often ask people: ‘How many deaths are acceptable in your family?’ And the answer, of course, is always zero - as it should be. Your very presence in this building today is a painful reminder of why we must continue on this Target Zero mission,” Smith said.

Sadly, the year 2017 is shaping up as another tragic one on the state’s highways.

If Target Zero were attained for the remainder of the year, the toll already stands at 284 as of April 23. That is six fewer people than at this time in 2016 but far too much carnage on the roads.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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April 30

The Post and Courier of Charleston on solar energy:

Two new nuclear reactors under construction in central South Carolina will cost state residents billions of dollars for years to come - even if they never get finished. Solar power, on the other hand, has gotten so cheap in the past few years that the state’s utilities could massively expand their renewable energy capacity at a long-term cost savings.

It would not necessarily cost ratepayers any money up front to build a new solar farm, and it could actually save them money on their electric bills.

In fact, solar is now the cheapest way to build new electricity generating capacity - even without any kind of subsidy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and other sources.

It’s cheaper than coal. It’s far cheaper than nuclear. It’s even cheaper than natural gas, which itself has dropped dramatically in price as fracking has expanded.

Compare that to the nine times SCE&G; has raised electricity rates in the past eight years just to pay for the two new reactors, both of which face an uncertain future after the main contractor in charge of constructing them filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.

As SCE&G; and Santee Cooper determine how to proceed on their new nuclear reactors, the conversation should include ditching all or part of the project in favor of building an equivalent amount of solar capacity. It likely would be in customers’ best interest.

Of course solar isn’t a perfect substitute for nuclear power - or fossil fuels. Solar energy is only generated when the sun is shining, and battery storage isn’t currently an economically feasible option on a large scale, although prices are coming down.

For that reason, South Carolina will still need a healthy supply of more reliable energy - known as the base load - for the foreseeable future.

But most of the state’s power already comes from coal, gas and nuclear plants. Only about one percent currently comes from renewable energy, including solar.

Most experts estimate that the amount of solar power could be expanded to about 20 percent of the total electricity generated without risking reliability.

And in South Carolina, the peak times for electricity consumption are generally when the sun is out (and the air conditioning is turned on) anyway, making solar a more practical way to grow the state’s energy capacity than it might be in other climates.

An increasingly popular business model of allowing private companies to buy or lease unused, marginal farmland for solar farms and sell the power to utilities means savings for utilities, savings for customers, income for landowners and property taxes for rural counties. It even means a few hundred temporary construction jobs per farm.

That’s a winning solution all around.

Indeed, with a large-scale solar farm generating millions of dollars in property taxes over the life of a contract, South Carolina counties with dwindling tax bases could be in store for a windfall, even considering the discounted tax rates typically granted to solar power producers by counties. Energy companies currently have to negotiate with officials of individual counties for discounted rates.

The S.C. Legislature is considering a bill that would extend an 80 percent tax discount statewide, bringing the state in line with neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, both of which have built more than ten times more solar generating capacity than South Carolina.

But even with that large incentive, solar power would still likely be a boon to counties, since the disused land ripe for solar farms doesn’t generally generate much of a tax bill anyway. The Legislature should give the solar farm bill serious consideration.

As the days get longer and the temperature rises, the extra sunshine ought to be a reminder of the cleanest and cheapest way to generate new electricity for South Carolina. The state’s residents should demand that we take better advantage of solar power.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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April 30

The Index-Journal of Greenwood on a road bill:

Ever wonder how magicians do the trick in which they place an object under one of three cups, slide the cups around and around, then ask you to pick under which cup the object can be found? You pick a cup, but - surprise! - it turns out the object isn’t anywhere to be found.

We don’t exactly know how they do it either, but we know it’s sleight of hand. And we also know that there are some magicians who do similar things in Columbia. They’re called legislators.

For some years now, the magic has gone out of our state’s roads, highways and bridges. Also for years, our state’s leadership has acknowledged the deplorable conditions and promised to make repairs to the miles of infrastructure.

They have convened beneath the Statehouse dome, they have debated at length, they have postured and come up with nifty little sound bites that will preserve them in the annals of legislative history. They have made more amendments to legislation dealing with a single issue than the U.S. Constitution has since it was signed by our Founding Fathers nearly 230 years ago.

The deal, if it can really be called one, that was cut recently was not magical, but certainly more like a magic act. Increase the gas tax, cut income taxes, give tuition credits and let state residents get another tax break based on their spending at the pump (provided they keep receipts).

Money infused into fixing roads is coupled with money taken out of other coffers.

Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, called the deal “horrendous” and “God-awful.” His fellow senator from Charleston, Sandy Senn, disagreed, saying senators brokered a deal. Democrat Darrell Jackson, from Columbia, said he was embarrassed. “We ought to have a straight-up vote on roads. None of us should take victory laps. We know it’s a hoax.”

Massey ultimately and reluctantly did throw his support behind the bill, as did Sens. Floyd Nicholson and Mike Gambrell.

That said, we have to agree with the bipartisan responses issued by Massey and Jackson. Indeed, the bipartisan so-called deal struck in the last hours of the legislative session is a hoax.

Don’t call it a roads bill. Call it a hocus pocus bill. And see how far down the road it goes this week.

Online: https://www.indexjournal.com/

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