Have you had your fill of Occupy Wall Street, (OWS) which has spilled over into dinky, surrounding, wannabe towns including one nearby with a population of a whopping 4,000? Apparently, these in-duh-viduals are protesting rich people and the fact that the rich keep getting richer and the poor, well, are the poor. My response: that’s life. Life isn’t fair. I don’t like the word “fair”. Rather, I like “not cheating”. “Fair” is too often used by whiners. Some of these OWSers are self described anarchists and communists. Oh yeah, there you go. That’s what we need is communism. There’s a model of equal outcomes. How is that Venezuela model working?
I have not a covetous cell in my body. Steve Jobs, or at least his widow, is a multi-gazillionaire having lead his company from the brink of collapse in the 1990s to the world’s most highly valued company, ahead of Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, and Microsoft. Speaking of Microsoft, as Steve Jobs once said, Bill Gates has never developed any innovative products in his life, but yet he is a billionaire because he was good at steeling ideas within the law, I guess, and developing a monopoly. Good for him!
The real problem and reason the OWS whiners are misguided is crony capitalism. The DOE and administrations dish out billions of dollars to crony campaign donors who in turn send a big chunk back for reelection campaigns, before or after their ill-conceived company fails and the executives walk away with millions. Or it’s egg before the chicken. The cronies donate a bunch of money and get their investment in government back 10 fold once their guy gets into power.
Let’s see… in the underground economy, there is a name for this: money laundering. So all OWSers should be marching on and petitioning Washington, the root of their grievances. You have to understand the problem to solve it. This is clearly a bipartisan activity and nothing new. However, I would say the recent fanning of the flames, pitting citizens against one another is a bit unprecedented and shameless. Watch the hand! You guys get in a food fight while we (Washington) continue to rip you off.
While I have not a covetous cell in my body, I have billions and billions of cells of rage against crony capitalism, money laundering, cheating, dishonesty, malfeasance, and vast wastes of money and resources.
As mentioned before, Washington should, like utilities have done in recent years, get back to their core business of protecting and defending its citizens against enemies, foreign and domestic. This is the only thing they do remarkably well, although I’m sure there are gobs of waste, but how many plots have been busted and bad guys destroyed in the past decade or so?
Washington is a horrible venture capitalist because (1) they make decisions based on politics and not favorable or acceptable risk/reward, which follows with (2) they are using other peoples’ money so they obviously do not care. It seems there are failed green energy, green jobs companies and/or scandals in the paper each day. Or take my favorite, ethanol. Many are concerned about our ability to feed ourselves as the planet takes on its 7 billionth human, this month or thereabouts. Meanwhile, over 4 billion bushels of high energy corn go to make a tiny dent in our fuel needs and negligible impact on our petroleum imports. That’s roughly 30 pounds of corn for every human on the planet, or maybe 50,000 calories – enough to keep an offensive (as in the team with the ball) lineman going for a couple hours. No. Really it’s enough human fuel for 20-30 days for a mortal human being.
Similar to OWSers, there are end users of energy that whine about high energy costs and hate their utility as a result. Isn’t it ironic that nobody seems to care about energy costs, as in the total cost of running a business, except when prices rise? And end users should consider what is driving prices upward: I would guess the vast majority of price increases is due to emission regulation and construction of wind farms. These things are legislated at state and federal levels. I, unlike the prima donnas (think JFK junior, hypocrite in chief) living in population centers and telling everyone else how to live, do not mind the sight of these behemoths on the landscape.
On a side note, other hypocrites for renewable energy and lower energy cost protest construction of transmission lines from where the wind blows to where people live and wind doesn’t blow. In addition to transporting renewable energy to population centers, it adds reliability and more supply options to the grid. More options mean lower prices. The solution is simple if you ask me. See I-90 in southern Minnesota. Just run the transmission lines down the damn ugly interstate highways where there is already immanent domain and land! It’s flat. It’s open. What? Would it mess up the beauty of billboards for Wisconsin Dells, gentlemen’s clubs, and truck stops? This is a no brainer. What for the love of Pete is all the hassle about? And there aren’t even any dairy cattle near the interstate to pick up the electromagnetic waves causing birth defects like four headed two legged calves.
Whining end users share a loser trait with the OWSers – they would be far better off taking control of their own well being rather than itching and moaning about something they have little control over. And by the way, the control they do have is mainly with their corrupt finaglers in Washington. Very few are accountable. These people represent the very few competitive congressional districts, states, or the entire country, while most are not accountable. The unaccountable include political appointees like Lisa Jackson running the EPA, or Bonnie Fwank and Charlie Rangel, each of whom would have to be caught live on national TV steeling an armored car and maybe running over a few pedestrians to not get reelected. I don’t think felons can be elected from their jail cell but who knows. Felons, dead people, pets and alternate personalities can and do all vote.
For-profit end users that howl about their energy costs are very likely to have more energy cost reduction opportunity than those who don’t. This is Jeff Ihnen’s untested hypothesis. Why? Because the howlers don’t like, and in some cases, detest their energy provider and do not trust them. Detestment (a new word) does not foster cooperation, which is extremely helpful, bordering on essential to control energy consumption and cost.
I have also yet to come across a for-profit, with a strong efficiency track record at the corporate level, howl about their evil energy providers. Well known EE champions with track records that fit this profile include 3M, Pepsico, General Mills, and Simplot.
The message to end users of all shapes and sizes is first control what you can best control – yourself and your organization, and second, pay attention to what’s going on in state and federal governments – each of which are big drivers of energy supply, regulation, and generation sources – the primary drivers of energy price.
I thought this was a great headline for an opinion piece in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, by Holman Jenkins: “Hooray, A Financial Firm Fails”, describing of John Corzine’s MF Global collapse. What’s even more impressive is that Corzine, formerly of Goldman Sachs, formerly U.S. Senator, formerly New Jersey Governor, is in the admiral’s club of crony capitalists. Failure is progress. Eat your heart out.
This week in Coon Valley, where I’ve lived for 15 years, we were hit with frost that ended the growing season for unprotected plants. I have said for years that the first killing frost is always around the first of October, depending on the timing of cold fronts, but this year was earlier than normal – earlier than its been for many years I think (I’m getting old so I’m becoming a walking almanac like your grandfather is/was).
To the point, I thought, the killing frost may be symbolic of the death of “green,” I don’t think the death of the concept just yet, but the death of the term. “Green” may join the trash heap of burned out terms that were symbolic of failure and/or some sort of scandal:
- “Jobs created” converted to “jobs created or saved”.
- “Global warming” converted to “climate change”.
- “Stimulus” converted to [I’m not sure what yet but Nancy Pelosi has declared the term “stimulus” to be off limits]
A few months ago when we were rebuilding our website and updating some content, I was pondering for a replacement for the word “sustainable”. The word is entirely overused and I don’t think the average Joe Public has a clue what it means – maybe something hippie-like, living in communes, drinking herbal tea, wearing hemp over a Bob Marley tie-dyed tee shirt and dreadlocks, and riding a crappy looking single speed bicycle.
Green is also wearing out its welcome if you ask me. Speeding it to its death is the raft of bad news coming from what I would call misallocated stimulus (ironically) funds. I mentioned the Solyndra bomb a couple weeks back, but then it was merely a half billion dollars of taxpayer money that might as well have been pelleted and mixed in with coal and burned to generate electricity. THE US GOVERNMENT BLOWS A HALF BILLION DOLLARS! READ ALL ABOUT IT!, as the boy would yell on the street corner selling newspapers in the old days. In 2011 however, a half billion dollars of totally wasted taxpayer money is barely worth mentioning. Something like this would be buried on page 21 of the Arts and Leisure page, next to the movie listings.
The Solyndra episode has ballooned into a scandal of sorts. When boiled down, it was actually a $500 million dollar television ad for the President to tout successful green jobs in a state of the art manufacturing facility, in California of all places – probably the worst place in the union to make anything. At first it was hyperventilating right wingers on Fox News parading the successful failure of green jobs and the Obama administration.
However, now everyone including numerous news outlets, congress, and even the FBI is piling on like a school of piranha attacking a case of bratwurst. ABC first broke the scandal part of this they claim. The CEO was a crony donor to the President. And the best part: venture capitalists (of the private sector stripe) are first in line to get their money out during bankruptcy “restructuring”. Taxpayers last – my anthem for all government activity. Taxpayers are always last in line for any sort of break. Solyndra will not emerge from bankruptcy. It will be liquidated. Anybody need some light fixtures, fancy cabinetry, office furniture or equipment? Robots? The liquidation is my prediction because any company that burns through cash this fast and manufactures a product that competes against a similar product at 1/6 the cost is unsalvageable.
In other galling cases, we have General Electric, with CEO Jeffrey total-failure Imelt on the President’s jobs task force maneuvering to pay zero income taxes thanks in large part to “green energy” tax credits. In ten years Imelt has guided the company with a starting share price of $55, now trading at $15. Imelt claims he’s advising the president on jobs, not tax policy. Right. His henchmen are lobbying the bajeebas out of Capitol Hill for these tax breaks and loopholes. Regarding the jobs advisory, he is doing a fine job as he moves GE Healthcare manufacturing from Wisconsin to China.
Look; companies are free to make stuff where they want. A major reason for moving offshore is high corporate taxes for the unfavorable companies (like ours) and red tape like, oh, SarbOx, Frank-Dodd, OSHA, EPA, NLRB, protesters, and an incomprehensible byzantine tax code. I do have a problem with lobbying and manipulating tax code to one’s benefit. I do have a problem with Imelt being in the White House all the time on a jobs and competitiveness advisory this or that with the President. Why doesn’t the President immediately boost his image by losing this guy and holding a rose garden ceremony to do so?
In another success story, Whirlpool, which purchased Maytag about five years ago and closed the Newton, Iowa clothes washer and dryer plant, also pays no income tax thanks to green tax credits. It also happens to be moving jobs south of the border. Are these green jobs that are being exported?
Combine once-great American companies that move most manufacturing overseas, while paying no tax on the money they do still earn onshore with throwing taxpayer money in the incinerator for political photo ops and you get “green jobs” becoming a vulgar taboo phrase.
In still more program-formerly-known-as-stimulus news, $38 million in weatherization funds do wonders in West Virginia. The money was filtered down from the state to local “anti-poverty agencies”. Half the projects failed inspection. Projects were doled out without bidding per state law. Employees (of the weatherizers) and their relatives served themselves first, one spending $10k with new windows and doors. I’m surprised they didn’t build a garage and call it a vestibule. A lawyer was paid $25,000 (that’s right, twenty-five thousand dollars) to write two sentences approving the awarding of funds to the agencies. The topper of them all, and there’s no way Jay Leno could come up with this, one person was paid $2,500 to inform Washington there was not enough money to track the money.
I get the feeling we won’t be hearing about the creation of green jobs much longer, if ever again. Actually, the word green may even become foul.
This is bad for our industry and we are going to suffer collateral damage and take some shrapnel from this I am concerned. As I’ve been beating on the past month, independent and in depth evaluation of program impacts and cost effectiveness are needed. The way to do it is to have government (regulators) police the private sector – utilities and other implementers, using other private sector evaluators.
I kid you not. After writing the above, I came across this article in the NYT. Yes, in addition to the banning of the word “stimulus”, “green” is now verboten per the White House. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/12/the-green-jobs-numbers/
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Back in August I came close to posting a blog “Enough of the Empire State Building Already” but that one faded away. In case you never read anything about energy savings and sustainability, the building is undergoing a $20 million renovation to improve energy efficiency. The project would shave the facility’s $11 million energy bill (a cool $4 per square foot) by 38%. Johnson Control ran ads in every trade magazine I get and various publications, including major newspapers, ran articles by the dozens.
Coming in a close second to the Empire State Building was the Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, WI. Apparently it was the first LEED Gold certified High School for New Construction Version 2.1. Ok. It seems everybody associated with the project ran an ad for their greatness: manufacturers and vendors of stuff used for construction, contractors, service providers, congress people, the governor, priests, rabbis, dog catcher, and the feral animals themselves. This went on for months.
Well it all hit the fan. As I was flipping through my stack of trade magazines this long holiday weekend, I saw in HPAC (short for Heating Plumbing and Air Conditioning but they actually go by HPAC – HPAC.com) in their August issue that a group of stakeholders including the building committee, a couple licensed professional engineers, and other taxpayers are appealing the certification with the USGBC. They claim the design does not and cannot meet indoor air quality standard ASHRAE 62, minimum energy performance, ASHRAE Standard 90.1, OR the minimum commissioning requirements. Ouch! What do you feral animals have to say for yourselves now?
I’m not going to do a ton of investigating of this crime but I have no reason at all to believe the appellants are not standing on firm ground. What is interesting is the firestorm of HPAC reader comments, which read like blog comments of far left and far right cutting each others’ livers out. Jeezo, the comments are still swirling three issues AFTER the first mention of it in August. Comments include the following, each of which I respond to:
- One of the points I raised concerned legal liabilities and the USGBC’s refusal to accept responsibility for advice about guideline compliance.
o The USGBC shouldn’t have responsibility for advice it gives. It’s up to the design and construction teams. The guidelines are available. If they can’t read, find new firms to do the job.
- The USGBC seems to prey on undereducated, uninformed owners and the public.
o Nice. There are certainly uninformed folks, but I’m sure the USGBC is a deceitful money grubbing outfit headed by Gordon Gekko’s offspring. The guy would probably dump a five gallon bucket of used motor oil in the lake if you paid him $100.
- LEED is a standard of relative greenness, not a contract for overpaid lawyers and underemployed engineers to litigate. …the LEED process has been a powerful force bringing green design mainstream.
- LEED is bogus. Let common sense prevail. Why can’t you simply tell the architect/engineer firm(s) to design the most EE building you can without a third party intervening?
o Because cheap and crappy always wins the bid and the average firm doesn’t really know squat about REALLY producing an efficient, comfortable, and code-compliant facility.
- I agree [not me – the next guy reader/commenter]. USGBC does not check if equipment is installed per drawings.
o If it did, it would cost a fortune and no one would do it.
- [in response to the previous statement the next guy says] Get a life. LEED is a standard of relative greenness… blah blah. [The exact same statement as above by the same guy, published two months in a row]
- [in response to the previous] Mr. Perkins just doesn’t get it. Building green just to get LEED points, rather than building a building that will improve the health of occupants[with minimal] lifetime costs, is total BS… Too many folks just care about LEED certification, not if a building really works.
o In my opinion, LEED actually improves the odds that a building “really works”. It requires somebody to at least fake their way through commissioning and at least think about designing for efficiency and healthy environments. To say LEED diverts designers and contractors away from these things is irresponsible.
I mentioned before in this blog that our MO is to fix immediate problems first and take corrective action later. Too frequently building owners/stakeholders go after the party they think is responsible and meanwhile the building festers away. The second too-frequent approach is to hire the same fools responsible for the kludge to fix it.
Owners and stakeholders should first fix the problem by hiring somebody who knows what they are doing. This does two things, both of which they want to fix a screwed up building: (1) gets the building working optimally as soon as possible and (2) by doing so gives them leverage with the responsible parties for some sort of settlement.
Attacking USGBC for establishing green building methods and metrics but not enforcing them with an iron fist is ridiculous. Why not go after ASHRAE for not coming down on people like a ton of bricks for not following ASHRAE’s standards? Energy codes that are state law in many states aren’t even enforced in some of them. I’m not sure about the rest of the parties involved with LEED projects but engineers have codes of ethics. I would say blowing off owner desires, cutting corners and lying about what was or was not done probably violates these ethics. How about attacking these losers and scoundrels and running their underwear up the flagpole instead?
I would guess you haven’t heard but the Chicago Climate Exchange is shutting down. At one point in this blog I explained I think that trading something that has no value in and of itself is unprecedented. Currency is only thing I can think of that has no intrinsic value but currency is actually a means to put value on things. I can buy groceries with currency. I can’t buy anything with a carbon credit.
Numerous corporations were buying carbon credits and even “supporting” the legislation in the event some sort of cap and trade passed. The legislation disintegrated and there remain only a few ashes of political will to even whisper the phrase. The carbon value that existed was 100% speculation. The value that remains is 100% nothing.
As I mentioned in a recent post, if cap and trade didn’t pass during last congress with unstoppable majorities in both houses and the White House, I don’t see it happening. This does not rule out the EPA creating their own laws to put a price on carbon dioxide.
In “The Nebulous Green Job” I ranted about Green Jobs, of all things. As it turns out the green jobs stimulus portion of the stimulus has not been too stimulating. The Washington Post reports that the recently green-educated graduates are having difficulty finding work in solar energy installation, green landscaping, recycling, and green building demolition. Well, heeeyeah! Electricians and plumbers are on the prowl for PV and solar water heating systems. There is already a live and well recycling and building demo industry. I just burned up “the tube” in my microwave oven this weekend and the nice local do-everything, small but mighty superman store otherwise known as Coon Valley Dairy Supply replaced it. I asked what they did with the old ones. A local guy picks them up and strips them down into piles of materials to be sold to buyers – no government green-job intervention included. Cool! If there is a market people will find it and fill it.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
How many times have you read “we can create 40 million jobs and reduce our energy consumption by 90% if only we did x, y, and z.“ Lester in this article says by 2035 we can double our fuel economy. Well I should hope so! Lester is actually one guy that is conservative in his estimates/goals. David Goldstein in the same article says we can decrease our energy consumption by 88% by 2050. Now where does he or any other egghead come up with these numbers?
I had to laugh out loud regarding the results of an energy efficiency potential study I studied a couple years back. This expensive study was to be used for energy efficiency program planning for the subsequent five years for a state which shall remain anonymous to protect guilt. For commercial and industrial (C&I) programs, imagine a graph with two sets of data on it. The bars represent the programs’ goals for the trailing and forward-looking five years each, and a line represents achieved savings over the trailing five years. For the trailing five years the savings ran about double the goals, increasing a little each year – something like 5% per year. Well guess what the goals were going forward – about double where they were at the time increasing about 5% a year. Stupendously genius! If I failed to explain clearly, the goals were just an extension of the past 5 years. You could lay a ruler over the past five years’ points and draw a straight line to get the goals going forward. Man, I wonder how much they were paid for that report. At least a half million dollars, I’m sure.
Soothsayers who predict energy savings potential two-three decades out or more must subscribe to the same methodology, otherwise how can you possibly project what the savings potential is beyond ten years. Engineers, good ones anyway, subscribe to a rule that says extrapolating data beyond the data set – into the future in this case – is very dangerous. The further out one gets, the huger the error.
I am confident that the world’s economies will become more efficient with time, if for no other reason, less energy consumption means more profit. However, the savings curve over time may approach a limit of something like 20%-30% savings compared to today because there is a severe shortage of professionals with degrees in the physical sciences, e.g. engineering, who are knowledgeable regarding C&I energy-using systems and savings potential.
Here is an article that includes 10 ways to improve the energy efficiency of a commercial building. As I read this typical list, I can tell the author most likely doesn’t know squat about outing real energy-saving opportunities in C&I facilities. Do energy audits, use more efficient equipment (duh!), maintain equipment efficiency (duh!), insulate, and brainwash occupants. These things can save substantial energy if the lights are on 24/7 and the chiller was made in the 1960s and it’s plugged with airborne fuzz including dandelion seeds and the like. This list reads like a good set of tips for homes.
Where are the real savings? In system design and control. Heating sources have been approaching 100% efficiency for a long time. It is also going to be difficult to cost-effectively produce chillers that are much more efficient than you can get on the market today. You’ve got to pump water, move air, control temperature and humidity, and provide ventilation. Until humans create artificial intelligence to control systems, these things always waste substantial energy regardless of how efficient, well maintained, how many audits you do, or how “aware” of energy your people are.
Then there are manufacturing facilities, some of which I swear were built by the seat of somebody’s pants and controlled by no one. Compressors are running at pressures higher than they need to be. Cooling water and heating water streams are mixed before a portion goes to a cooling tower and the other portion goes to a heat exchanger. Pumps and fans are grotesquely oversized. Equipment is controlled in series rather than parallel. Chilled water is used to cool things to 110F. Operators’ fault? Maybe not. These facilities operate for profit, and productivity including simply keeping the line going, is king. Staff in these facilities run from one fire to the next.
I don’t know if I have ever seen “green jobs” and “engineer” in the same article. Green jobs always seem to refer to people who weatherize homes or work at a wind turbine, electric vehicle battery, photovoltaic, or some type of renewable energy plant. This is fine by me as I really don’t want that moniker. However, this is symptomatic that at least 50% of energy consumption in all buildings is misunderstood at best and virtually out of control at worst.
Rather than or maybe in addition to job training for the green economy, how about some electives or advanced degrees even for engineering schools? Six credits of electives or a masters degree in energy efficiency would go a ways. It wouldn’t take me long to generate a high level curriculum. Rather than throwing hundreds of billions at technologies and industries that are bad ideas (e.g., food-generated ethanol), how about investing in some smart people who can critically analyze and provide solutions to greatly reduce energy consumption COST EFFECTIVELY WITH NO TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES?!
Here is an all-to-familiar story of misguided priorities. BWI Airport is spending $21 million on an energy savings performance contract and they are leading off with the installation of a bunch of solar panels. Meanwhile, they are probably wasting energy as though they want to get their “fair share”. I also just came off a conversation where a former science teacher at a school district is pressing for a remote, net-metered wind turbine – and they want the utility to pay for it. Uhuh. Another LOL moment. They’ve done a grand total of zilch to optimize their facilities’ energy consumption as well.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
“Green jobs” have been all the buzz for quite some time, probably before Barack Obama was elected president, but I don’t know for sure. What the heck is a green job anyway? Some real answers include those like we have at Michaels Engineering with 20+ engineers working full time on real energy-saving projects. Another example is the guy who operates the humongous crane that helps erect humongous wind turbines.
But politicians and academic eggheads aren’t talking about jobs like we have at Michaels, although they probably do agree the crane driver has a green job, but it goes far beyond that to Alice’s wonderland. Take this Mark Izeman guy’s interview. I’ll paraphrase the questions and answers for brevity here.
Q: What should graduates look for by way of green jobs?
A: Look into areas of energy efficiency, renewable, cap and trade, and local food, which is a red hot issue.
These are shot gun recommendations for everyone leaving college with cap and gown stuffed in a suit case: physical education, political science, sociology, library science, foreign relations, mass communication majors included. Quite frankly, I don’t know what people with these sorts of academic backgrounds are going to do unless they want to weld and assemble wind turbines and electric cars. Otherwise, there are always more PR jobs like the guy being interviewed in the article, but what good does that do? It’s like hiring cheerleaders to double as special teams experts in the NFL. What we need is more players and fewer cheerleaders (strictly speaking about the “green jobs” industry and not the NFL).
And then he says buying local food. What are you going to do with that? Start your own vegetable farm? I think there is a lot of cheap land available in Detroit for this. There are more jobs available working for Dole, which grow strawberries in CA, bananas from Guatemala or Ecuador or someplace like that. I’m sure there are a lot of management, marketing and sales jobs and stuff like that with these companies. Oh, I forgot. These aren’t “green jobs”. Never mind.
RA (real answer): Think before selecting a college major. With an engineering degree you will have the flexibility to fill or create any number of green jobs. Library science guy? Not so much, for real anyway.
Q: Has the stimulus created “green jobs”?
A: Fifty thousand “green jobs” have been saved or created.
Can we count the 20 plus engineering jobs we “saved” in this total? Why did “jobs created” morph into “jobs created or saved”? Obviously, the latter can mean anything. Since the 4 million jobs have disappeared while the unemployment rate has gone up (down most recently because the workforce is shrinking as people quit looking for work), it’s pretty hard to claim jobs have been created.
Fifty thousand is a pathetic number, even if it represented “created jobs” only. Here’s a sneaky secret: you know when you apply for a federal grant, which seems to be part of nearly everyone’s business model nowadays, one of the selection criteria is you guessed it, “jobs created or saved”. Well my new LED street lighting job is going to create or save at least 200 jobs. This probably gets as much scrutiny as an Energy Star dust mop.
RA: Nobody has a clue, really.
Q: How many “green manufacturing jobs” will replace lost manufacturing jobs?
A: Lieberman/Kerry cap and trade will create 200,000 jobs per year over the next 10 years.
RA: In China and India.
Q: How do you define “green jobs” in the first place?
A: He doesn’t know but the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is figuring it out.
Why? A job is a job, so if my job is a green job, I guess that’s one less engineering services job. It’s one or the other.
RA: Whatever it takes to capture enough jobs for some political end.
Q: What is the outlook for “green jobs” sector over the next 40 years?
A: “Greening the economy and creating new jobs, which will become so plentiful and normal we won’t label them “green jobs”.
RA: The outlook is good. I don’t think this will be going away, but let’s dispose with the “green jobs” moniker, which is just political wrapping paper to pass massive spending bills.
Demand for green stuff is growing on its own. Take LEED, which is run by a non-profit United States Green Building Council. It has been wildly successful and as far as I know, it has taken very little if any money from federal, state, or local governments. I don’t see a single government employee on the board of director committees. Gee. I wonder if there is a connection between wild success and lack of government bureaucrats?? You don’t suppose.
Wal-Mart has probably produced more “green jobs” per the definition provided in the article/interview noted above than the federal government could ever hope to accomplish. People buy hybrid cars on their own volition. Leading hybrid-producing car companies didn’t need any government largess to be successful in this market. I do think they will need government handouts for development of electric vehicles which, I am guessing will go on the scrap heap of bad ideas, right on top of the fuel cell vehicles that we should have been driving by the thousands by now. More on this later.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP
Some of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA or “stimulus”) targets energy efficiency and green jobs training. Wisconsin just announced $2 million in green jobs training. Oregon: $6 million. First off, I’m skeptical of these curricula. Who will be teaching? What is the curriculum? At a cost of about $6,000 per graduate, it’s close to one year of in-state tuition and fees at a public university. Wow.
Who is going to attend these courses? I would say a significant portion would be laid off construction workers and skilled trades workers. Once they are trained to weatherize homes, which does require training, no question about it, they will be ready. But maybe in a year “real” jobs will return, and do you think a construction worker who can make $50k per year will keep weatherizing homes? I doubt whether home weatherization can compete with that. But I digress.
The purported goal of these programs is jobs – green jobs. These jobs will lead us out of the economic funk we’re in. I disagree. The green jobs will really begin to flourish once and if the economy ever recovers.
We need a strong economy to spur construction. We have a design division and within our energy division, we have a sustainability group that provides new construction design assistance and LEED® consulting services. These would be considered high paying, long term jobs but as the economy is in the tank, these core services have ground to a slow crawl. These were “green” jobs before green was a color. Fortunately, our services are sufficiently diversified that we can keep relatively busy backfilling our other service areas. Other firms aren’t so lucky. Unemployment among architect, engineering and construction workers is running nearly double the national average.
Furthermore, with the economy in the tank, energy demand is down. If you don’t believe it, just ask utility employees who are forced to take unpaid furloughs. With shriveled demand, who needs energy programs? Sure, in the short term this will have no effect. If there is a long term, these programs may lose favor with the public, which is and will be squeezing every penny. I’m sure we have a long grace period per the currently popular “green jobs” movement.
A strong economy will revive construction and manufacturing and this in turn will put pressure on energy supply, prices, and infrastructure; the drivers for demand side management programs and energy efficiency (not to mention the A&E and construction industries). It will also put money in public and private institutions’ pockets to spend on energy retrofit and energy efficient new construction. THEN green jobs will really emerge, organically – how about that!
A strong economy will also move institutions from deer in the headlights / survival mentality to a more competitive mindset. Once this occurs, green will be a key ingredient to the competitive edge and it will lead the way in differentiating product A from product B, retailer 1 versus retailer 2, or A&E firm α from A&E firm β.
written by Jeffrey L. Ihnen, P.E., LEED AP