Posts Tagged ‘infrastructure’

The Blame Game, Gulf oil spill version.

2010/05/30

There is a lot of finger-pointing going on right now over who is to blame for the horrible disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which is already the largest oil spill in U. S. history.  Suppose we find the person(s) responsible.  Will that change what has happened?  Will affixing blame prevent what has happened from happening again?  Probably not, in both cases.  And the real blame lies with American consumers, who steadfastly refuse to give up driving by themselves everywhere that they go, paying any amount for the gasoline they need, and turning a blind eye to the future.

The only reason that BP was drilling a well nearly a mile under the surface of the ocean was because they stood to make a profit from it.  With gasoline selling for nearly 3 dollars a gallon, oil companies are willing to try to extract crude oil under any conditions.  The hot new area for oil exploration right now is off of the coast of Brazil, in 10,000 feet of water.  The oil deposits lie nearly 3 miles beneath the sea floor, which means having a stick of pipe nearly 5 miles long.  The oil that is recovered is going to be very expensive, but the demand is so great that profits are assured.

The only way to stop this insanity is to reduce our consumption of petroleum products.  As long as huge profits are in the offing, people will do anything to be part of the gravy train.  More regulations won’t help, tighter supervision won’t help, greater accountability won’t help.  In many ways, this is very similar to the war on drugs.  All that we have accomplished by cracking down on drugs is to make selling and producing them even more profitable, which means that someone is ready to step up every time someone else gets busted.

The oil companies are like pushers, trying to get us to use as much of their product as possible, while trying to keep the competition from making any gains in their turf.  We could reduce our dependence on oil substantially, but that is the last thing that the oil companies want us to do.  They want us willing to pay any price for a gallon of gas, willing to stand in long lines to purchase this miracle substance, willing to buy vehicles which get poor mileage.  They don’t want us deciding to ride the bus or the train instead of driving, or carpooling, or riding our bicycle, or walking, because the oil companies can’t make a profit on those activities.

Big business wants the government to do everything possible to keep energy cheap, even if it threatens our survival.  We will do almost anything, pay almost any price, for the illusion of freedom that comes with owning a car.  So we created the demand for oil that induced BP to drill for oil in 5000 feet of water.  We are the ones who are pressuring the government to open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for oil production, not the oil companies.  We are the ones who are willing to buy oil from people who want to destroy us.  Changing our lifestyles to ways that are sustainable, which do not degrade the planet, is the only way to stop the oil companies from creating more disasters.  The government can’t do it, special interest groups can’t do it, religion can’t do it.  Every time that we drive a car, we are voting for more exploration, greater acceptance of risk, higher gasoline prices.

All we have to do is to leave the car at home when we commute to work, or to school, and we would reduce the demand for oil considerably.  And we should do so anyway, just to get ready for the days when we can no longer afford all the gasoline that we want.  Because things are going to change, and we will have to change in response.  It is much easier to make a change willingly than it is to be forced to change.  We need to have alternatives in place for when gasoline is just too expensive.

Advertisements

Robby, the robot miner.

2010/04/11

Things could have been different in West Virginia last week.  People did not have to die to keep the cheap power flowing to the insatiable American consumer.  Coal mining has always been a dangerous profession, and a life in the mines usually means suffering from Black Lung disease the last years of life.  If one does not die in an explosion, flood, cave-in, or fire.

The technology exists to allow the miners to work in relative safety, connected to robot miners via virtual reality goggles and gloves, with control consoles for moving the robots around, monitoring vital functions, and communication with other miners.  People would probably still have to go underground, so that the links to the robots would not be too long, but they would not have to be exposed to the coal dust, methane, and physical risks associated with working coal.

The robots would not look anything like a human being, probably being mounted on a tracked carriage, with an upper body that could rotate, lean, and handle heavy weights.  Cameras would be the eyes, microphones the ears, and a large, heavy arm with interchangeable ‘hands’,  which could telescope out away from the robot a short distance.

Power would be supplied by cables, with an emergency battery back up for evacuating an area after a power failure.  Hey, these things are going to be expensive, so you don’t want to leave them at risk, if at all possible.  In order to be able to work in an explosive atmosphere, the motors and moving parts would have to be sealed airtight, which is a good idea to allow surviving flooding as well.

Not every task could be completed by a robotic miner, so humans will still be needed to climb down into the bowels of the earth, but robots could easily replace 75 percent of the humans working a mine, without putting those workers out of a job.  Their job would just be different, controlling a machine deeper in the mine.

Once a design is adequately developed, mass production could begin, which would bring the cost of each robot down considerably.  The Mine Safety and Health Administration has been unable to insure that profits do not take priority over safety, so, instead of trying to change the companies that own and operate the mines, they should be given the tools needed to make safety less expensive.

Of course, if the companies owned the mining robots, they might be more willing to keep the mines safe, to protect their investment.

2010/03/07

What happens when government shirks its responsibilities?  If the US government had decided not to play a part in opening up the American west, how long would the process have taken?  Without some kind of assistance, the railroad companies would not have been willing to risk millions of dollars to build a railroad from St. Louis to San Francisco.  Without government involvement, aviation would still be primitive, limited to short hops with few passengers.

One of the primary purposes of government is do that which the private sector can’t, or won’t do, when the results would be very beneficial.  The interstate highway system could never have been built by the private sector alone, because of the high cost.  Many people in rural areas would still be living without electricity if the Rural Electrification Act of 1915 had never been enacted.

Investors are constantly seeking ways to make more money.  Without leadership from government investment, they will put their money into whatever seems to offer the best returns.  Thus, we had a period where money was invested into financial derivatives, real estate, and leveraged buyouts.  Several trillion dollars of investor money poured into making more money, but the investments were not sound, and over 1 trillion dollars disappeared because of that.

It is my belief that the government refused to invest in what should have been the most rewarding technology we have ever discovered, choosing instead to focus on weapons technology and extending American influence into energy-rich parts of the world.  Without clear leadership from the government, investment capital was thrown at any idea which might possibly pay off.

Now, we are seeing the consequences of that lack of leadership.  The American economy is collapsing, our industries are moving overseas, and debt is choking growth.  America is creating very few things that the rest of the world wants, and is forced to sell off land and infrastructure to purchase what we do not produce here.

It didn’t have to be like this.  In the 1970’s and ’80’s, the US could have been creating the infrastructure of the next industrial revolution.  We had the know-how and resources to pave the way for wealth creation on a scale that dwarfs anything that has gone before.  Instead of using the most advanced technology in the world to open up the next frontier, we choose to squander it.  We could have been building space stations, more advanced versions of the space shuttle, and exploring the Moon.  We could have been learning to process materials in zero gravity, creating products which can not be made here on Earth.

Had we taken the path into space, investment would have followed.  Private space stations would have been built, private expeditions to the Moon launched, and real wealth would have been created.  Investors would be putting their money into new industrial techniques, new transportation systems.  Products would be available that would revolutionize life on Earth.  Right now, we have no idea what can be done out there, just as no one could have conceived that aviation would completely alter the world.

So, instead of creating new wealth, investors are chasing imaginary wealth, wealth which evaporates overnight.  Instead of building the next generation of spacecraft, which would be in use for generations, we are retiring the only working spacecraft that we have.  Instead of expanding our world, we are watching it shrink.

Building a better beast

2010/02/22

The United States economy is a sick puppy right now, reeling after over 1 trillion dollars evaporated.  The driving force of the economy in the past, consumer spending, has fallen drastically, as the middle class has been forced to live within its means.  Credit is almost impossible to get, and has become more expensive.  The declining value of homes has made the home equity loan a thing of the past.  Unemployment is scaring people into paying off credit cards, and building up savings.  Federal stimulus money has kept states from laying large numbers of employees, but the money is running out.

Maybe we ought to think about spending some of our money making the country more efficient.  This would reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, as well as cutting the emissions of greenhouse gases.  Money would be freed up from energy costs, which could be used to increase spending.  Consider:  Many commercial buildings have no insulation.  That is right.  None.  The average home more than 20 years old is seriously lacking in insulation, and often leaks air copiously.

Putting people to work right now is difficult, because plans have to be drawn up and approved, bids taken, and contracts let.  But retrofitting homes and businesses could commence within weeks, if done properly.  Although President Obama talked about a program such as this a few months ago, little has been said regarding it recently.  Could it be that energy companies don’t want to see consumption reduced?  Could it be that Congress doesn’t like giving money to the average American, although they have provided plenty to the big banks and two of the car companies?

Perhaps we could couple improved efficiency with greater reliance on solar and wind power.  Low interest loans for solar panels and wind farms would probably increase the numbers in use considerably.  We are falling behind the rest of the world in the use of renewable energy, especially in the field of solar.  Building and installing solar panels would employ many people if we were to make a national push to utilize them.

Buses are a good way to save energy, and many parts of America have very few.  Building buses financed by federal loans to local transit operators would create employment in the parts of the country which have been hit so hard by the fall in auto sales.  People who ride buses save money which they can use to take their cars out for recreation, whereas people who drive to work often cannot afford Sunday drives.

There are ways to put people to work, right now, doing things that we would benefit from for years and years.  Some seem socialistic, but saving our society seems a worthy enterprise to me.  If we are going to keep borrowing money from China, at least we ought to do something worthwhile with it.

A new economic model

2010/02/21

Right now, we don’t have time for dealing with health care costs, new legislation regarding the financial industry, or immigration reform.  We have a great need to re-invent our economy, immediately, before we slip further into recession.  Our old economy depended too much on manipulating money to make money, on huge profits on inefficient automobiles, and credit.  Consumer spending was the engine of the economy, accounting for 70 percent of all economic activity.

Those days are long gone, and they are not coming back soon.  But our economic model has not changed, and millions of people are sliding into permanent unemployment.  Somehow, we have to find a way to create things that other people, people outside the United States are going to want.  They do not want our automobiles, they do not want our computers, they do not want our clothes.  What does America do better than anybody else?  Besides screw, start wars, and piss people off in general, I mean.

We are the world’s leader in advanced aerospace technology right now.  We are currently operating the only reusable spacecraft in the world.  We have learned tremendous amounts about getting into space and getting back.  By applying that knowledge to the development of a new generation of spaceplane, spacecraft designed solely to climb a short distance out of the atmosphere, and then return, we could lay the groundwork for another industrial revolution, one which would create more new wealth than has been made in all of Earth’s history.

The most difficult part of space travel is the getting into space.  We have to accelerate ourselves to a velocity of 5 miles per second, 17,500 miles per hour, to be able to stay in orbit.  There are several different rockets that can put freight into space, but only a few which can carry people.  The space shuttle is one of them, and it is set to be retired this year.  After that, the United States will not have a way to reach space, and will have to buy seats from the Russians to send our astronauts to the International Space Station.  NASA had been developing an old-fashioned rocket to carry a small number of people into space, but it duplicates the capabilities of several existing American rockets in most ways.  And none of the current or projected rockets will be able to carry more than a few people at a time.

This coming industrial revolution is going require people, lots of people, people who will be living and working in space.  Getting them there is the only thing holding up this new revolution.  Once that bottleneck is broken, investment in space stations; laboratories and orbital factories, is going to start.  The United States has a head start in building the type of spacecraft that will be the backbone of space travel in the future, which will look a lot like the space shuttle.  But, unlike the space shuttle, this spacecraft will only carry people, at least at first.  The parts for the space stations can be sent up on freight rockets that already exist.

But having people use a rocket means that it has to be ‘man-rated’, which means that the chance that a malfunction will result in the death of the crew is minimized.  These requirements add so much weight to existing rockets that they cannot be used.  That is because they all take off straight up, which means that failure will have the crew right in the middle of a whole bunch of explosive materials.

But there is another way of reach space, besides going straight up in a rocket.  By carrying the spacecraft to about 50,000 feet of altitude, the spacecraft can be launched where the air is thin enough that the spacecraft can fly horizontally and still go fast enough that it will reach space.  Lower down in the atmosphere, the air is too dense to be able to do that, which is why rockets launch straight up, then curve toward the horizon.

The United States, under the guidance of NASA, could build the immense carrier wing needed to carry the spacecraft to launch altitude, and the spacecraft that will then fly to orbit, and return, to land where it took off, where it will be prepared to fly again.  This kind of launch system can operate in bad weather, which rockets generally avoid, and does not require huge numbers of people to monitor every aspect of the spacecraft, the launch site, and the surrounding area.  Because a malfunction will simply result in the spacecraft flying back to the landing sight, and not blowing itself apart, with the crew section floating to earth by parachute, it is not necessary to be aware of every detail.

Space flight which does not have to wait for perfect conditions, perfect performance, is the prerequisite of this industrial revolution.  It must be low-cost, safe, and reliable.  We have the ability to make it happen, and doing so in a short time would require the work of many people.  It would also result in many people being paid enough that they could afford to hire housekeepers, gardeners, and music teachers.  Coupled with a national program to improve the energy efficiency of the United States, employment for all could be achieved in a matter of months.

What was spent on the fiscal stimulus program would have paid for the complete development of this new spacecraft, the carrier wing, and the launch and recovery facilities, as well as the ground support needed to operate it, several times.  No other investment we can make offers the potential for larger returns, for new wealth to be created.  Other nations are anxious to take part in this revolution, and some are planning to start it themselves.

But this revolution will need people on the spot, people who can perform experiments, people who can figure out how to make things work, people to keep things working.  Lots and lots of people.  People who will ride to work on spacecraft that take off and land like airplanes.  Spacecraft that we can, and need, to build.

The estimated value of debt

2010/01/29

This financial crisis we have just started dealing with is not a surprise, nor was it unexpected.  And it isn’t over.  We are dealing with the consequences of our actions, the paybacks for the greed we all have been guilty of.  Sure, we believed that our homes were appreciating at astronomical rates, and why, of course we took our banker at face value when he said that it would wise to take out a home equity loan.  We wanted to have that money to play with.  We wanted to buy a nicer car to commute to work with, that boat that was on sale, or put in a pool.  Could we afford to do these things without borrowing money?  Not no.  Hell no.  We shoveled debt onto our heads like we were digging foxholes under fire.

What has all this economic activity created, all the money that we spent bought?  And how could so much of it just evaporate overnight?  People think about credit, but what about debt?  How many people think about the fact that most of the wealth that has been created in the last 20 years or so has been nothing more than numbers in computers, based upon the value of debt.  The more people owe you, the richer that you are.  People invest in debt, banks sell it, and nobody seems to want to pay it off.  What a wonderful concept; buy today what you cannot pay for until tomorrow, if you are lucky.

Did anyone figure in the effect of laying off millions of the highest paid consumers on the planet?  Is it really growth when you take jobs away from one group of people and give them to a different group?  Or is that just financial manipulation, to create wealth by cutting costs.  What happens when the cost that you cut is the buyer of your product?

Real wealth does not evaporate, it does not diminish in value, it is durable, and serves all the people.  Real wealth is roads, bridges, fiber optic cables, transmission lines.  How much real wealth has been created in the United States in the last 20 years?  And it is not creating new wealth to repair old roads, it is investing in what you already have.  So, we built a lot of buildings, but were they needed, or were they funding for a developer?

On every level, Americans have chosen to ignore the future, to resist real change, to accept that they were no better than anybody else.  Other people could ride trains and busses, we were going to drive.    So what if our new building doesn’t have any insulation.?  It is cheaper that way.  And the whole time, we have been insisting that everything is worth more.  Not because of any discernable reason, but just because we said so.

We have invested in trying to be wealthy enough to not have to work, not in making our futures better.  Now, we are paying for sitting on our butts.  We don’t create anything of value anymore, and we can’t even govern ourselves without borrowing money to do it.  Instead of spending money to develop the technologies needed to make a future possible, we have invested in moving production from America to some overseas country.  But we have not invested in giving Americans anything to do.  Normally, economic growth means that the leading countries improve their technology, and move from building one kind of product to one which is more complex, advanced, or somehow beyond the abilities of other producers.  Displacement happens as new industries replace old ones, and people have to learn new skills.

We veered off from advancing our technology, because it would have required a long-term investment, tying up our money for decades.  And we wanted to keep our technology to ourselves, so that no one else could use it against us.  In the 1960’s, during the administration of Richard Nixon, it was decided that the United States would not invest substantial resources into outer space.  The Apollo program would be cut, and no other manned exploration would be funded.  The military was going to handle space exploration, and only for the purpose of defense.

Since that time, the United States has spent more on cosmetics every year than has been spent on developing space manufacturing, mining, and processing.  Typical budgets for manned space exploration have amounted to a few brief missions every year, and nothing else.  The US would not have built a space station except because of pressure from its allies to contribute to one.

It is almost like we are committing suicide by starvation.  We give away all of our food, and do nothing to find more.  The world is fighting over a pie, each person wanting a bigger slice, and more people wanting slices all the time.  We need true growth, growth that results in wealth that will not evaporate.  The Earth is being used up, corrupted in our quest for wealth, while everything that we could possibly need exists somewhere in our Solar System.

Americans should be building space ships, working on space stations, or the Moon, doing work that produces tremendous value, so that they could bring home enough money to buy cars from Japan without having to borrow the money from China.  General Motors would be the worlds leading producer of launch vehicles, and Ford would be making deep space probes.  But we chose to be wealthy instead.

Scott P. Holman

2009/01/29

No content!

2010/01/19

There is a fundamental problem with the push to provide content, software, and data storage over the World Wide Web, as the Internet is actually called.  Does anybody think about what the Internet really is?  Who is paying for all the technology needed to make the Internet possible?  How is it possible for the things we do over the Internet to keep growing, expanding?  Are there limits to what the technology can do?  The ‘backbone’ of the Internet has a physical existence, with machinery which is expensive, must be maintained, and constantly must be replaced.  That machinery determines how fast data can be transferred from one place to another.

We tend to think of networks like the Internet the way that we think of a telephone network, but that is an inaccurate and misleading conception.  A telephone network establishes a connection between two places, a connection which is maintained until the connection is no longer needed, or is broken by something.  The Internet never creates a constant connection between two places, and the various parts of a movie, for instance, can be transferred via a bunch of different pathways while downloaded to your computer.  Instead of a dedicated, two-way connection, the Internet breaks communications up into little bundles, called ‘packets’, each one of which contains a tag which has the identification of the bundle, and where it is supposed to go.

These bundles leave their point of origin and enter the network, which figures out which direction they need to travel, and sends them on their way, one at a time.  The next intersection of the network looks at the tag, and decides which is the most direct route to the destination, at that moment, that is available, and not busy handling another bundle.  Then, it sends the bundle on its way.  The next bundle might go the same way, but it probably will end up going a different path.

Each intersection, or ‘hub’, can handle a certain amount of traffic.  Once it gets backed up, it starts refusing new packets.  It is an intersection which takes more than one cycle of the traffic lights to get through.  Each hub is rack of equipment somewhere, which is connected to the cables which are the pathways.  That rack of equipment allows the owner to access the Internet directly, without renting that access from somebody else.  In order to be able to handle the traffic going through the equipment, including the owner’s own, the owner must purchase bigger and faster machines when the data load increases.

In the past, it has been worth it to invest in this equipment, because the percentage of your own traffic that your equipment handled was high.  But as the amount of traffic around the Internet increases, that percentage goes down.  If you don’t buy faster and more powerful equipment, your own data takes a long time to move from your location to another, because your equipment is tied up moving bundles for other people.

Who is going to pay for all this new equipment?  Will it be the people generating the traffic going through it, or will it be the people who want to send their own data out?  We all want to have access to the wealth of information on the Internet, but were will the wealth come from to make that access possible?  One person downloading a movie will use as much of the Internet as thousands of people who are looking a web page.  So the people who look at web pages are going to have to pay more to be able to do so in order that other people can download movies.  Or we will end up not being able to use the Internet for anything.

Which road to recovery?

2009/12/13

As the financial crisis has evolved into an economic crisis, where unemployment and diminished consumer spending have replaced toxic assets as the poison in the system, more calls for tax cuts are heard.  Stimulus spending is not reviving the economy, therefore another remedy must be needed, the thinking seems to be.  Conservatives have opposed the stimulus spending from the beginning, insisting that tax cuts would be more effective at reducing unemployment and stimulating private spending.  They argue that reducing taxes would allow investment into new businesses, which would create jobs.

This might be so, if the investments were made in the United States, and the jobs that were created were for Americans.  But recent history indicates that large corporations are more likely to use money freed up by tax cuts to invest in overseas production, to expand outsourcing, to maximize profits.  How is this going to help American workers?  Making products cheaper doesn’t help if consumers are unemployed, or underemployed.  Private investors are unlikely to put their money into improving energy efficiency, or alternate energy sources which will take years and years to pay off.

Conservatives object to the government simply handing out money that it has had to borrow, yet cutting taxes is basically the same thing.  Either way, the deficits will continue to increase.  But stimulus money has not been used to create new jobs in many cases, but to preserve existing ones.  States have been able to avoid laying off educators by paying them with stimulus funds, which keeps unemployment from going up more, but does not create new jobs.  Construction projects have had some positive effect, but many of those projects will only provide temporary employment.

How can we put Americans to work for the long-term, while at the same time putting more money into the hands of the private sector?  Doing one without the other is only going to prolong our agony.  Tax cuts will put more money into the hands of the private sector, but there is no assurance that it will be used to create jobs in America.  What industries are ready for large-scale investment, what sector could absorb millions of workers?

If we were to improve the ways that we use energy, so that we could accomplish the same result with fewer units of energy, we would be creating new wealth.  If we reduce the cost of heating and cooling a person’s home, we allow that person to spend a larger portion of their income on other things.  If we reduce the energy overhead costs for a retailer, that retailer can either lower their prices, or increase their profits, or a mixture of both.  And these benefits would be permanent, not just a temporary shot in the arm.

So, how about we cut taxes for those who invest in improving their energy efficiency, while using federal funds to put people to work improving energy efficiency?  In this way, we can target a specific area for improvement, instead of just handing out money in the hopes that some of it will create new jobs.  Energy efficiency is one of the greatest weaknesses of the United States, perhaps in part because consumption has made some people richer.  But choosing consumption over efficiency has made all of us poorer.

Growth, or profit?

2009/12/06

Over one trillion dollars has disappeared from the American economy, and it wasn’t the big corporations which lost most of it.  It was the American homeowner, the retired person, our children.  The value of our country shrank by a good portion of what it  used to make every year, and it is no where near returning to the levels of wealth creation that we all got used to.  The money that has disappeared was in the same category as the money that hasn’t been made yet, because it was just numbers in computers.  It wasn’t houses being destroyed, cars wrecked, bridges falling down, dams bursting, or planes crashing.

We suffered the kind of destruction of wealth normally only seen in wars, yet, most of us are still sleeping indoors.  While that is still true, we should consider what lead to the economic catastrophe that we are enduring.  What were we building with all of that wealth we used to have?  What were we creating that would have lasting value, or even create more value?  A cell phone network?  Shopping malls?  New cars?

What about bridges, high speed rail systems, fiber optic networks, advanced space craft, health care that is affordable without insurance, renewable energy?  What about all the wonderful things that were talked about 20, 30, or even 40 years ago?  Why have we let bridges fall down, roads fill with holes, and public transit decline?  Why is it such a wrenching change to deal with hiccups in the energy supply?

Because we have been after easy money, quick money, right now money.  How often are we reminded of the future in our media, our advertising?  Everybody wants their money yesterday, so that they can pay the bills they got the day before that.  Save?  That is what they call it when we pay down debt instead of shopping.  When we invest, we are putting our money into hedge funds, stocks, or collateralized debt obligations.  How are we going to pay for the future when all of our money is tied up making money right now?

This economic catastrophe has been on the horizon for years, yet no one has figured out how to avoid it while still enjoying the profits that we have come to depend upon.  We have gotten used to taking every year what used to be made in only the best of years, to the point that management is focused entirely on meeting the cash requirements of paying dividends to stockholders.  They have done this by slashing research and development, cutting production costs by shipping jobs overseas, and using lower quality.  Just a few years ago, General Motors paid out over 1 billion dollars in cash after losing over 8 billion.

We can continue to use all of our money to make money today, but we will sacrifice our standard of living to do so.  The alternative is to willingly lower our standard of living so that we can invest in things that won’t pay off for a while, things which will be needed by all of us.

Cash for Caulkers makes many sense!

2009/12/04

Why is it difficult for people to support a public works program which would employ large numbers of people for at least a year or more, which would reduce the nation’s carbon footprint significantly, as well as our dependence on foreign energy, and which would increase the value of homes and business establishments across the country?  The proposed energy conservation program being called ‘Cash for Caulkers’ offers the most benefits from spending federal dollars I can imagine, both in the near term and years down the road.  A large number of structures in this country were built with little regard to energy efficiency, both residential and commercial.  Increasing insulation values, installing storm windows, and closing up gaps in siding can have a tremendous impact on the amount of energy used to heat or cool a building.

So, why would people oppose such a program?  Perhaps because they stand to gain more if consumption of energy is not reduced?  Could it be that there are people who are so selfish that they begrudge any effort to improve energy efficiency?  Certainly, reducing the amount of coal and oil that we burn seems the logical way to reduce our emissions of carbon, but discussions of solutions to the climate change problems never seem to include changing our habits or improving our methods to significantly reduce the amount of fuel that we use.  But improving the energy efficiency of structures is the most painless way to reduce our consumption of energy, because it won’t result in changes to our lifestyle.  Just because your house has been insulated doesn’t mean that you have to get up earlier, spend more time commuting, or that you have to spend time out in the weather.

There are such a large number of structures which qualify for weatherization that the program could last five years and still not get them all.  But that would be five years of employment for people who have experience in the building trades, or warehousing, or billing, or any other job created by the spending of our money to make us smarter in how we do things.  The individual consumer will benefit the most from this program, because, even if the work is financed as a loan, it will be paid off in just a few years, and then the consumer can enjoy lower energy costs.

This is investment in ourselves, the acceptance of the need to spend for the future, instead of just for the moment.   This is setting money aside in the knowledge that it will create more money, for years to come, without betting on interest rates or the stock market.  This is investment which pays dividends starting immediately, and continues to generate dividends for a lifetime. This is investment that will put lots of people to work, and not for just a few weeks, or a couple of months, but long-term.  This is investment which will create jobs across the spectrum, from skilled to unskilled, from manufacturing to construction.  This is a public works project that makes sense, and is long overdue.  Let us see if we can shed the mantle of shame that goes with being the most wasteful nation on the planet.