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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Ahead - Economically and otherwise

From my balcony and the first time all year, I spotted a sunbather lounging at the pool late Friday afternoon -- a sign that spring is near. For months the winds have been fierce, cold, and mostly dry. Today it is warm and calm, and still dry.

On a trip to Austin a week or so ago, I noticed how BROWN the country looked - a potential tinderbox. We are in a weather drought to go along with the financial drought that has swept the country but so far has missed Houston.

At an international law seminar this week, I asked a Department of Commerce official who has been in Houston 15 years whether more American companies were exporting compared to 20 years ago. Then it was only 1 in 10 that could export, did.

His answer: only 11% that could export do. There has been no change in the last 20 years in the percentage of American companies selling products internationally. Every one billion in exports creates at least 25,000 jobs right HERE. This is one area that could help us climb out of the current economic mess. The problem is that the markets are down worldwide, so it won't be a quick fix, but it would be a fix.

It's one of several things that need to be done to "spring ahead" in an economic sense.

The other is energy efficiency and renewable energy development. In the seminar one speaker said that wind and solar installations have DOUBLED in the past few years, yet they contribute only 1.1% of total power production. If we went on an accelerated program of installing wind and solar along with energy efficiency technology, we could cut our dependence on foreign oil while cutting energy waste and the associated costs.

But doubling current renewable sources of energy it is going to be enough to turn 1% into a majority. The speaker said that 50% of our energy comes from coal, so we have to face the fact that "carbon capture" will be required to (1) get energy and (2) not add to the greenhouse gases that will eventually turn Earth into an overcooked Venus unless we start reducing it ASAP. Americans don't have that technology, but the Europeans do.

In the short term, we could gain more savings faster with energy efficiency that oftens pays for itself. One example: Just putting on solar security film would cut up to 70% of solar heat coming through a building's windows. That is 70% less heat to air condition. That cuts energy costs sufficient to pay for the installation over time. At the same time it protects from breach by burglars or hurricane-force winds, cutting future damages dramatically.

Another example is switching to LED and more efficient lights. This act will also pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

These are the types of product that has worldwide application well beyond our borders. We have received inquires from as far as India and the Middle East. It is an opportunity to create jobs and cut energy waste on a global as well as local scale.

Because our product makes so much sense, we are extremely busy. It has created jobs for Sales reps, installers, etc. while protecting historical buildings, houses and computers.

Bottom Line: We need more people building wind turbines and solar panels (and installing energy-saving technology like solar security window film) and fewer people selling hedge funds and Ponzi schemes.

That is how we rebuild American strength and values.

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