Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Furnaces but Heat Aplenty in ‘Passive Houses’

Innovative homes pioneered in Germany are encased in such an airtight shell that barely any heat escapes. Penny saved is Penny earned.

read more | digg story

Time to Reboot America

We don’t just need a bailout in this country, we need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history.

read more | digg story

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Excerpts from NY Times Op Ed Columnist Tom Friedman: China to the Rescue? Not!

Said twice (in the excerpts below), standby for some real structural changes (economic, global, political, social, & technological) to come. Essentially, we will have to re-prioritize away from tactical economic maneuvering to more strategic economic maneuvering. That is, less consumptive spending on useless things that does not add real value to our overall lives and more strategic spending that creates a sustainable future for not just ourselves but our kids too.

As is the case in troubling times, we will be going back to basics. And this will be a rennaissance of sorts. We will find many expressing a nostalgia of things of old that worked well. However, we need to keep an eye to the future in applying "old world" principles. If we keep staring in the rearview mirror we may miss the turns in the road and run off the road. But going back to "old world" principles, they are timeless and apply as much today as it always had in the past. So, when we move away from it and things go awry, we have to return to it in order to make sense of what has gone wrong.

But what are we leaving behind for our kids? A mess? A good question to be asking yourselves during this time of introspection is: What will be my legacy? And use this in making decisions as we move forward. Our kids' future demand this of us!

So to bring this discussion full circle, we will return to basics, to "old world" principles that we've departed from. And lets return to "old world" craftmanship a world where workmanship and pride flourish on the basis of principles. This is truly sustainable.

Finally, an evolving theme is increasing risk due to our more inter-connectedness globally. Whole industries and parts of others are being decimated and exposing risk that at times seem fleeting. We will have to be quicker at deciphering these risks and work to mitigate them -- not just for tomorrow but the day after tomorrow. I think this will be a major part of the structural re-alignment I mentioned earlier. And a good example of this would be the Airline industry. They were hurting recently due to high fuel prices. Many of them, essentially all except one, were exacting substantial losses. As a result, they had to respond by raising prices. Only one airline didn't really have to and that was Southwest Airlines. This was in large part due to it's hedging. Think of how much things would have been different by relating this to the excerpts below and the rest of what I wrote about. And watch how this plays out. You will find that you are understanding the Change that was much talked about in recent days.


With unemployment now soaring across the U.S., said Stephen Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, Americans — “the most over-extended consumer in world history” — can no longer buy so many Chinese exports. We need to save more, invest more, consume less and throw out most of our credit cards to bail ourselves out of this crisis.

It’s good advice. China is not going to rescue us or the world economy. We’re going to have to get out of this crisis the old-fashioned way: by digging inside ourselves and getting back to basics — improving U.S. productivity, saving more, studying harder and inventing more stuff to export. The days of phony prosperity — I borrow cheap money from China to build a house and then borrow on that house to buy cheap paintings from China to decorate my walls and everybody is a winner — are over.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Action Alert

I have been getting many employment inquiries for my firm and have been filing many applications. To date, I have received over 1,200 such emails this year alone. But the current state of the economy and demand in the industry doesn't allow for this level of employment for my firm and many others. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority state their strong motivation & desire to join the industry to make much needed societal changes.

So, I pose the following:

Question: Why not put a ready, willing group of motivated people to work?

Answer: I can hire many of them.

Here is how you can help me do so:


Please email the following to your Congressional Representative & Senator.

I'm writing to ask you to make two changes in the tax code to help smooth the road for municipal efforts to finance solar and energy efficiency projects.

The upfront cost of solar is one of the biggest barrier to widespread adoption. Cities across the country are looking into innovative finance programs that fundamentally change the cost equation by allowing property owners to spread solar energy systems and other clean energy purchases upfront price over an affordable 20-year property tax assessment. Known as "municipal tax assessment financing," these programs (now up and running in places like Boulder, Colorado and Berkeley, California, and being evaluated by others from coast to coast) use bonds rather than budgetary spending as a financing source. It's an exciting new way for even the most budget-constrained local governments to make solar and energy efficiency more affordable for property owners.

In order to make this model work, we need some tweaks to the federal tax code. Specifically, Congress should:

1. Clarify that participating in preferred, below-market renewable energy financing does not exclude access to the full federal solar tax credit. The federal government now provides a 30% investment tax credit for the installation of solar systems. Property owners may lose that tax credit if they participate in a local or state government tax-financing program if the IRS determines that they are receiving "subsidized energy financing." Legislation can clarify that this type of renewable and energy efficiency financing program does not prohibit participants from claiming the tax credit. This is the single most important issue to resolve.

2. Allow municipalities to use federally tax-exempt bonds to finance renewable energy projects. Generally speaking, the revenue bonds supporting these new finance programs cannot take advantage of the federal tax exemption normally available to local government because the solar and energy efficiency projects financed by bonds are not considered a governmental purpose. This makes the program much less cost-effective for property owners. Given the requirement that we quickly address economic development, energy security and climate change, Congress can amend the code to recognize that such renewable energy and energy efficiency bonds are issued for a governmental purpose.

In these tight fiscal times, this is an easy way for the federal government to help cities in their efforts to jumpstart the renewable energy economy. As my representative, I respectfully request your assistance.

Many thanks for your leadership on this matter.

Yours truly,

Your Name