Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can we connect the dots? Part II

[See yesterday's post, if you haven't already, to make this second part of my post at least marginally sensible!]

Given the creative minds and the vast ingenuity present in the nation, I know someone can connect the dots that mark the presence of a variety of seemingly very different national and international challenges facing us today. 

So, what if. . .

. . .someone had the courage to lead us in a national movement to replace every drop of off-shore and imported oil with new energy, made in America and increasingly renewable as a percentage of the whole, over the next 15-20 years?

. . .national policy awarded tax credits that could be used immediately or held in reserve to be used during a 10-15 year cycle at the point of greatest need from an investors/tax payers perspective in exchange for investment in domestic solar, geo-thermal, natural gas and wind energy?

. . .homeowners who switched to solar panels, designed to produce higher levels of kw hours more efficiently, could receive tax incentives to invest in such efforts?  Or, what if larger solar companies offered home installation on a "rental" basis much like cable TV so that they would be affordable to consumers now?

. . .large, urban skyscrapers and any other sort of business buildings could invest in solar and/or wind energy systems with the understanding that energy cost reduction could repay the financing necessary to invest in such systems through the savings achieved and thanks to tax credits issued to such corporations and to the banks engaged in this community lending?  And, while we're at it, add in the bank's ability to satisfy its CRA requirements in the process.

. . .state and federal taxes placed on oil fuel consumption could be set aside for transmission infrastructure development to harness and deliver electricity produced by solar, wind, geo-thermal sources of alternative, domestic energy? 

. . .public schools, including special focus magnets and charter schools, began to invest in very specific training programs to equip young workers to enter the effort to refit our national energy system in the ways suggested here? 

. . .such educational programs involved actual hands on training focused in inner city communities both in terms of installation and service of new technologies and recruitment and training for the newly equipped labor force?

. . .public incentives to our major research universities drove forward the technical advancement of alternative energy production processes and hardware? 

. . .work returned to our urban neighborhoods because that's what we intended to be an outcome?

. . .students had a real reason to stay in school in view of the living wage jobs that awaited them at the end of their training both for non-college/trade students and college graduates?

. . .the need for urban employment training and real jobs intersected our national need for new sources of clean, renewable energy and connected with our growing need to disconnect from so much foreign oil and from oil markets controlled by those who seek us harm? 

Surely there is a way.  I know that in every crisis, like the one unfolding each morning before our eyes in the Gulf of Mexico, there is an opportunity to strike out in a new direction.  If someone could just connect the dots, mobilize national will and provide authentic leadership, we might create new hope for millions and a higher quality of life for everyone. 

We need a national strategy for the renewal of the American economy for folks at or near the bottom of the economic ladder.  What if we came together up and down that ladder to solve two enormous national problems that resulted in a stronger, more diverse economy, a cleaner environment and a more united and secure nation and world? 

No doubt, what I'm suggesting will take a comprehensive, large scale effort and an even larger national commitment.  I'm not sure we can decide not to do something on such a scale, not if we want to ensure the health and future of the nation. 

Maybe it's just me, but I can't seem to get those dots out of my mind. 


On a related note, here's just one encouraging quote from a Dallas Morning News report: on the alternative energy conference held here in Dallas this past weekend: 

"A study released this week by the Perryman Group suggests the CREZ project would create 41,000 jobs and $30.6 billion in economic activity when completed. The new wind power would cut carbon dioxide emissions 16 percent, cut nitrous oxide emissions 12 percent and save 17 billion gallons of water a year that would cool other power plants."

Click here to the entire report.


Anonymous said...


I'm up here in Michigan today where there is 25% real unemployment (don't believe the official numbers), many of whom are experienced manufacturing workers.

The effort to green our energy production would greatly benefit our country, but I really doubt that unskilled urban workers in places like Dallas would benefit very much. Until we take up the slack in our economomy, I can't see companies hiring very many unskilled, long-term unemployed or former prisoners for this type of work.

They will still be at the bottom of the standings when it comes to jobs. Even with full employment, the jobs they are likely to get won't be in manufacturing or even installing new energy systems, but in the leftovers--fast food, janitorial, etc. after more qualified and experienced people are hired.

That's a lot better than nothing, but we have a competitive labor market and someone is going to be at the bottom.

John Greenan

Larry James said...

I hear you, John and don't disagree that someone will have to be at the bottom. In the past those at the bottom where the young and part-time folks. Now, those at the bottom, as you note, are the ex-offenders and those who have otherwise experienced collapse in life and/or have little or no training for living wage jobs. As work disappears from our communities, the situation worsens.

That said, I really didn't have just those folks in mind. Lots of the people--acutally, most--with whom we work have jobs and full-time jobs, but those jobs pay little and lead nowhere.

If we go green, almost as an Apollo type program, lots of the jobs will benefit the 25% unemployed of whom you speak in Michigan. But there will be many who get into the game as installers, service techs, sales people and clean up crews.

Of course, if we don't train people for better jobs, we'll continue to get what we have. Such a national effort assumes that we do better by our people in terms of preperation for work.

Here at CDM in our WorkPaths program we've seen people train in construction trades w/o previous experience and then land much better jobs than previous to their training.

So, while, as I say. I understand your caution, I do think the folks with whom we work and the places where they reside would benefit from the sort of effort I envision.

Chris said...

What you suggest has absolutely no chance of replacing the oil on which our nation depends.

Anonymous said...

Sort of like when someone came up with the notion of a "horseless carriage," eh, Chris? Or maybe when Galileo or Capernicus challenged assumptions of their day? Or, how about going to the moon? Transplanting vital organs? Seeing the Berlin Wall fall? How does anything ever change, what with wild-eyed nuts like L James throwing out foolishness like this, right?

Anonymous said...

Going green is just another massive redistribution of wealth scheme. Check out what John Stossel had to say about it.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone care about the security and the future of this nation?

Chris said...

I also recommend a book on the subject.

"Power Hungry: The Myths of Green Energy." by Robert Bryce.

Anonymous said...

Let's trace the logic of the "going green for economic growth" concept. Each potential transition from gas, oil, and/or coal to a "clean" energy source, like wind, solar, or plant-based alternative fuels, requires a localized cost-benefit analysis.

I could put solar panels on the roof of my home, but would not see a return on my invesment, ever. I might reduce my monthly electric or gas bills, but the total cost of investment will always exceed any return I might receive even if my home based power plant return electricity to the grid.

Likewise, I can wrap my home to make it more efficient. This is cheaper than installing solar panels, but again, the overall cost is greater than future savings. A govt. program exists to do just this thing for lower income people and it is merely a siphon of funds - tens of thousands of dollars per home and no $$ recovery in the future.

Large windfarms do produce energy, but not nearly enough. Install all you want but you will never overcome our dependence on fossil fuels in the near or mid future. I don't disagree with using them strategically. But they have limited value and we need to get straight with ourselves about it, so we do not pursue failed, expensive public policy.

So what else is there? Obama has claimed that investing in green technology will create jobs on a large scale. How? Not very many people will be hired to wrap houses, build windmills, or create plant based fuels. In fact, recent analysis has demonstrated that corn based fuels created a shortage of corn for other uses, which caused a price spike in human food and animal feed.

We'll never get more energy out of a process than went into it; why do we suspend belief in this principle? If we follow the Obama plan to invest in these green technologies with our tax dollars, less will be gained than will be "invested."

Instead of an intelligent policy with regard to autos, team Obama created the cash for clunkers program, which exchanged more money than a vehicle was worth on the market for cars that could still be driven. Then new cars were purchased to get the benefit. This helped unions and failing auto manufaturers. Here is a factor overlooked: before that new Chevy Cobalt left the dealer's lot fossil fuels were used to build it; polution happened and demand was placed on energy supply, driving up energy prices. Further, since fewer used cars were available as a result of many servicable cars being destroyed, higher demand was placed on remaining used cars. Used car prices increased - and this kept some poor people from buying cars.

The answer is full and complete utility. Use the car until it is completely used up. The tax breaks should have gone to those who have older cars and put money into repairs and upgrades that keep them on the road longer. This reduces demand on new cars, supresses prices, reducing demand on energy required to operate factories. How ironic when liberals criticize middle class commuters but devise plans to put new cars on the road that only the middle class can afford. Efficiency is a package deal.

In addition to setting policies that reduce demand on the power grid, we should reward efficiency, but not punish unintentional inefficiency. Advances in technonlogy will help us, and a Capernican revolution is possible - I hope it comes soon. Nuclear power can be managed and new refineries can help level off demand. Liberals say no. And if protecting labor is your goal, nothing will work, ultimately.

High energy costs keep unemployment rates high by discouraging investment in business operations. Do all your poor friends who want a job a favor, vote to produce domestic fuel and reward efficiency with tax incentives. Business will respond.

Chris said...

Yes, close the border.

Chris said...

The President doesn't, if he did he would work to close the border.

Larry James said...

Anon 9:43, I was tracking with you until the very end when you threw in incentives and said business would respond. At that corner turn you join me and my logic. The transition will come only with tax incentives. In states where those have been available green jobs have mushroomed; where not there is no movement.

Also, natural gas fits in a bit different category than other fossil fuels in terms of clean air goals and availability.

Anonymous said...

What are green jobs?

Anonymous said...

This statement: "In states where those have been available green jobs have mushroomed; where not there is no movement."

Needs support.

Glad to have you on the tax reduction team, Larry.

Anonymous said...

I searched for green jobs and here is one link I found: (my comments are in parentheses)

Fast Company has compiled their list of the best green jobs for the next decade. They are as follows:(http://greeneconomypost.com/best-green-jobs-1052.htm)

1. Conservation Biologist (We could use a few hundred, or thousand. This won't change the economy. More likely our lives/environment would improve more quickly if we integrated conservation content/practices into all biology programs and others.)
2. Green MBA and Entrepreneur (This is really not a job, but a strategy for doing other jobs. Entrepreneurs would exploit the "green" concept even without a Green MBA. This is a step or two away from a real job, more of a planning notion.)
3. Recycler (Already have them. And no one has ever made it work. Liberal govts. require recycling programs, even though they do not provide positive ROI. The firms engaged in it survive b/c of guaranteed tax base. Small recycling shops can survive with low overhead, willingness to accept low ROI, and willingness to do the manual labor themselves - they don't hire very many people.)
4. Sustain ability Systems Developer (I noted earlier that a technology never produces more energy than exists in the resource. The system will never function at or above 100% efficiency. But a trained worker in this job category could help make improvements over existing systems. This is my favorite "green" job. It makes sense, but there won't be very many of them. By the way, this is a natural function of any of the other categories, meaning you can train a few to do only this function, but everyone else should be seeking system improvement anyway. So it might not be a job, so much as a mindset we all need to develop, with a few supporting skills.)
5. Urban Planner (Already have these and don't need very many more. They may need retraining to rethink their current planning assumptions and knowledge base. Further, the existing urban infrastructure will limit what they can do.)
6. Farmer (Here we're just renaming an existing category to create success. Since digging ditch can reroute water erosion, grown plants that produce oxygen and conserve energy, maybe we should add "ditch-digger" to our list of green jobs.)
7. Forester (See numbers 1, 4, & 6, above.)
8. Solar Power Installer (Unless a significant technology breakthrough occurs, this is a non starter.)
9. Energy Efficiency Builder (Already exists. I built a home in a Dallas suburb and my builder explained in detail what he was going to do to make my new home more energy efficient. It worked. But many of the prior categories above address this area. There is significant overlap on this list.)
10. Wind Turbine Fabricator (See number 8, above.)

Larry, you asked us to connect the dots, but many of the dots are no yet feasible, and may never be. Reduce taxe rates (did I thank you for supporting this idea earlier?) increase disretionary spending, watch the economy grow, and see businesses become entrepreneurial again.

Why is unemployment in Michigan so severe? B/C the auto industry & market in the US has been structured in such a way that the employees were significantly overcompensated in pay and benefits for the last 50 years. The resulting lifestyles of the hundreds of thousands of employees made working on an assembly line a life goal. Employees do not invest in themselves but expect unions and companies to push and prod them into skill categories and protect them even when they don't want to learn. Now that they are unemployed they look for someone else to move them into another job.