Reno Gazette-Journal: Death Tax Destroys Green Energy Jobs

[The following article was originally printed as an op-ed in the Reno-Gazette Journal]

By Peter Gunnerman

At Advanced Refining Concepts, we’ve developed a clean-energy alternative diesel fuel that industry experts said was impossible.  In fact, it’s been so successful that the company has grown from just a handful to 33 employees in under a year. 

The “experts” were happy to give us all the reasons diesel couldn’t be improved. 
We were happy to prove them wrong.  We looked at the gas tank half-full and asked why it couldn’t be filled cheaper, cleaner, and more efficiently.

The process hasn’t been easy.  We’ve tinkered in the past with some fairly crazy ideas – like creating a fuel mixed with water and upgrading crude oil using ultrasound – and along the way some of our projects flopped. 

Yet despite our share of long nights, dead-ends and disappointments, our work eventually paid off.  We’re now the proud parents, so-to-speak, of “GDiesel” – a diesel that burns cleaner, runs more efficiently, and costs less to produce.  Even more exciting, we’ve found a way to refine it without those ugly smokestacks. Our refinery emits zero emissions.

Our refinery was permitted in a record of 43 days.  We got right to work. 

With $3,000 we purchased rented a warehouse and developed a test product.  Today we are producing over 100,000 gallons of GDiesel per day and recently sold our millionth gallon. 

If current trends continue, we’ll grow to 3,000 employees in the next few years.  This means more clean fuel will be used and more Nevadans will return to work.

Unfortunately, some politicians, including Senator Harry Reid, say that should my 82-year-old father and business partner pass away, our business deserves to be taxed out of existence merely because we have been so successful.

They want to take over half – 55 percent to be exact – of everything we have invested in the business and all of my father’s personal assets over $1 million.  While Reid might have enough dough to afford living at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC, we don’t have the cash to afford this high of an estate tax bill.

After all, our capital isn’t sitting in a bank; it’s invested in large fuel storage tanks, computer controls, fuel processing equipment, piping, electrical equipment, natural gas metering and pressure equipment, buildings, roads and fuel loading racks. That means that in order to pay a 55 percent death tax, we would be forced to sell the entire company to pay the IRS, which demands payment a mere nine months after the death of the primary business owner. 

There is simply no way we can keep the company if the government confiscates 55 percent of the value of all the equipment in our warehouse.  And 55 percent of the value of the equipment in our development facility. And 55 percent of the value of the business equipment in our downtown Reno headquarters.  And 55 percent of our Peru Heights refinery in McCarran.  You get the picture.

Keep in mind – if we go under, it’s not just my family and me who lose a piece of the American dream.  Our workers also stand to lose their jobs.  In fact, research by the American Family Business Foundation shows that 1.6 million American jobs will be cut if Congress allows the estate tax comes back at 55 percent next year.  No wonder, considering that an average of 6,000 small businesses are shuttered or sold to large firms every year just to pay estate tax liabilities. 

If Congress fails to act on the death tax before the end of this year and the tax comes back to life, it will then be up to the 112th Congress to right the ship.  In particular, we are hopeful that if Senate candidate Sharron Angle wins the election this November, she will make good on a pledge she signed to fight for repeal in Washington. 

Advanced Refining Concepts and our current and future employees – plus countless other family businesses and their employees in Nevada and across the country – hang in the balance.

Peter Gunnerman is co-founder and co-director of Advanced Refining Concepts, Reno, Nevada.