Posted tagged ‘solar power’

Already Discounted

April 26, 2010

Headlines in todays papers cry that the “signs” all point to the end of the recession. You might ask, especially if you are unemployed or a public service employee awaiting a pending layoff due to budget shortfalls, what “signs”?

One sign is the stock market which is now above 11,000 and looks like it still has a lot of momentum. The sages say the stock market is always priced at what the near future will bring, they say it has already discounted the recovery and its high price reflects that.  If the market keeps rising, sages predict a stronger economy and more jobs.

More traditional economists point to factory inventory levels and orders placed upon these factories. These indicators, too, are positive because inventories are low and orders are beginning to mount up. Businessmen do not want to lose orders and will react by running their factories more. In short they will hire workers and buy more from others who in turn must hire more workers.

Memories are short. Most workers remember the last boom driven by the housing industry. New homes coupled with the real estate boom combined to both employ a lot of Americans and to create the allure of increased wealth through property appreciation. The lesson that should have been learned is that there are only so many houses that Americans can afford so building more does no one a favor. Another lesson is your house or property is worth only what someone else will pay for it. I wonder whether the market has discounted these realities too?

Balance holds the keys to the future. Our economy needs some value creating engines that will produce earnings and enable workers to buy other goods and services. We can’t all work at Starbucks, and we also cannot all build houses.

Alternative energy projects offer one of the greatest areas of new jobs and new wealth creation. From sequestering carbon dioxide from the burning of coal to the conversion of wind and solar energy into electricity to power our cars, heat our homes, and light our paths, these type of projects can be game changers.

General manufacturing (anything from underwear to toys to furniture to garden equipment) should also be a candidate for new jobs. These jobs probably won’t look like the ones that once existed here before exiting to China and other southeast Asian locations. They will need to have a higher “tech” component that in turn will allow manufacture at quality and productivity levels that can support good pay and competitive prices.

Both of these sources of new jobs will not be overnight happenings. They both require time and patience. They both will require a steady hand to guide the necessary investments with a promise of an adequate return. They both can support an American manufacturing rebirth.

I wonder whether the market has discounted these too?

A Problem Without Worries

June 23, 2008

When Republicans instinctively bring up drilling for more oil as the answer for our energy shortage and especially higher gas prices, you know from experience with the Bush Administration that something is wrong.  It is possible that drilling might be part of a sound plan for the future but there is no way it can be the plan.  We simply must seriously begin (or step up) our actions to find other sources of energy such as geothermal, wind, and solar that are totally without the risks or unintended worries of nuclear and coal/shale/oil sands.  Why do Republicans act this way?

1. Development of alternative forms of energy, especially solar will require further scientific break throughs in solar panel energy production and associated battery storage capacity.  Geothermal and wind require investment to build their networks, and are not the solution for everywhere in America.  On the other hand, the gasoline distribution network is efficient and already established.  The automobile industry is already standardized on the gasoline engine (or diesel fuel) and to change over to some other form including hybrids will take time and create a lot of wasted investment.  The Republicans see what works today and that is their solution.

2.  The oil and auto industries have lobbied long and hard to convince lawmakers that life is best with gasoline engines.  The leap of faith needed to abandon the good old gas engine and jump to an electric one is viewed too risky.  These industry executives have stressed these points with generous donations to any Republican with two hands.

3. Republicans (at least the backers of George W Bush) are not comfortable with science of any type unless it involves expensive anti-missile research with close to zero chance of success.  They are more at home with “intelligent design” and the science the White House spin department can generate.  Investing in science is investing in the future.  Inherently there is risk that success may not come, and in any case success will not come on a definite time line.  Republicans like a sure bet and drilling is that.

I am more inclined to think the drilling preference has to do with campaign financing and big paying jobs for future lobbyist.  The more recent generation of Republican politicians are used to a heavy diet of kick backs and campaign donations.  It is possible that each of these three explanations is partly involved.  But strangely, none of them need to be.

Alternate energy development is a “problem without worries”.  Consider the following

  • A concentrated, government sponsored research effort to develop efficient solar energy for homes and autos with take 10 years or more.  That will provide plenty of room for oil profits and time for industry to efficiently convert.
  • With a national commitment to solar power/battery driven automobiles, the auto industry will have a clear target to shoot for.
  • Geothermal and wind can be encourage today and with a national program behind them, can cut into oil demand within a year.
  • With lower demand for oil from the largest user (the US), prices will drop.  A side benefit of lower gas prices will be lower jet fuel costs and a huge boost to the travel and vacation industries.  Lower jet fuel costs will across the board be good for business travel in general.

So rather than be worried about alternate energy, the next President needs to seize this banner and champion it.  America needs to lead the way and rid itself of dependence on foreign energy sources.  This one move will enable room for healthy debates on all the other issues facing the country.