30 September 2008
Then they played partisan politics with the financial markets and said to hell with Main Street. (Hey, I have problems with the bailout plan, too; I like Fred Wilson's suggestion on A VC last week.)
Now Congressional leaders are holding renewable energy tax credits hostage.
Who are these people and how did they get elected?
I'm not taking any party sides here, it's happening on both sides of the aisle. They are both to blame.
As The New York Times reported this morning, "The House and the Senate are caught up in a bitter fight over legislation to extend various expiring provisions of federal tax law. The tax breaks for renewable energy are not controversial. But in the current debate, they are tied to many other tax breaks for businesses and individuals, including an extension of the tax credit for research and development, expansion of the child tax credit and relief from the alternative minimum tax, which threatens to snare millions of middle-income families next year."
Tax credits for investing in solar energy and producing wind energy will expire in December unless the stalemate is broken. And that can lead to more jobs lost -- at a time when the country is facing massive layoffs associated with the collapse of the credit market.
Now is the time to act on something that can continue the momentum of investment in renewable energy and in the new green economy.
But instead, Congress is getting caught up in debate and posturing.
"Congress is furthering our dependence on foreign sources of energy — dirty, polluting sources of energy," Rhone Resch, president of the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association, told the Times. "It's scaring away investment, just as our industry is beginning to get a toehold. Solar projects are already being delayed."
The legislation also provides incentives for homeowners and home builders to adopt more energy efficient practices.
"Our members build homes that are significantly more energy efficient than those of a generation ago," Jerry M. Howard, executive vice president of the National Association of Home Builders, told the Times. "But in today's economic climate, home builders need incentives to spur them to even more action."
We need real leadership on this issue in Washington, but it is folly to expect we'll get it from the children playing playground politics in the two chambers.
29 September 2008
Image via WikipediaToday is Monday, September 29, 2008, a day that will live, well, infamy is not harsh enough for it...the bottom fell out and the Dow dropped to 10,365.45, -777.68 (or -6.98 percent.)
Meanwhile, November crude fell $10.52, or 9.84 percent, to settle at $96.37 a barrel, trading from $95.04 to $106.91.
Could we be heading for $80/barrel? And, if so, what then?
Will it take renewable energy with it?
Or will there be enough of a bounce from renewable energy tax credits to keep up momentum? (That is, if Congress gets back to the energy tax credits Bill again this session! See "Lame Duck and Cover" below.)
Will $80/barrel oil cause a splurge that sends demand sky high and the price back up with it?
And what happens to the new green economy now?
These are just a few of the questions with which I am wrestling this afternoon.
And now to pour that glass of Talisker.
(Note: The photo above is decidedly not a bottle of Talisker.)
26 September 2008
Specifically, Green Jobs. Van's premise is that Americans can be put to work in the New Green Economy; that, in fact, it can help lift people out of poverty.
And there may be something to his assertion. While the manufacturing of materials and products associated with alternative energy or energy efficiency can be done overseas, the installation and servicing of those products needs to be done on site.
Now Van and his cohorts have conceived of a National Day of Action calling for Green Jobs Now. Tomorrow, Saturday, September 27, they are asking people to step up and say, "I'm ready for the green economy."
The objective is to foster a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.
Here are Van's own words, from the Green Jobs Now blog:
George W. Bush's house of credit cards is falling down - on the heads of the American people. We need dramatic action - but not just to bail out financial titans who destroyed the economy.
We need to throw a green life-line to the people who want to rebuild it.
There is only one comprehensive solution to the present mess: put America back to work retrofitting and repowering America with millions of green-collar jobs.
A new study from the Center for American Progress and PERI shows that it can be done.
Saturday, tens of thousands of people in all 50 states will be rallying, demanding real solutions for our communities. We are calling the events: "Green Jobs Now! A day to the build the new economy."
This massive green jobs day of action is being co-produced by Green for All, 1Sky and Al Gore's WE campaign - with more than 100 partner organizations. It is the first of its kind in the history of the country, and it will include people from all walks of life (including low-income people and people of color).
As of today, we have more than 600 events planned. You can pull up event details (and see a cool animated VIDEO) on www.greenjobsnow.com.
Now is the time for the USA to pivot away from an economy based on borrowing and toward one based on building. We need to rely less on credit from abroad and more on creativity here at home.
And here is more detailed info:
Green Jobs Now, a national day of action this Saturday, September 27 to advance a socially just and inclusive green economy.
In collaboration with Green for All, 1Sky, and Al Gore's We Campaign, and many more organizations, we have organized nearly 600 Green Jobs Now events in all 50 states! Together we are building a movement to lift millions of people out of poverty and solve the climate crisis.
Our actions will send the message that people of all classes and colors are ready for a new economy - one that uplifts people and honors the planet. These events will call for building green pathways out of poverty and into prosperity for millions of people. From coast to coast, tens of thousands of people will tell the world: "Were ready for the green economy."
Goals for the National Day of Action:
1. Encourage elected leaders and presidential candidates to prioritize green jobs and an inclusive green economy.
2. Build a powerful and diverse base of organizers, promoting the movement for green jobs as the best way to fight poverty and global warming.
3. Elevate the voices of low-income people, people of color and other vulnerable constituencies in the movement for green jobs.
For more information and to find an event near you, visit: www.GreenJobsNow.com .
24 September 2008
Surprising because the tax credits had been held hostage by partisan politics for much of this year and, as deadlines loomed, it didn't look good for getting it passed.
But concern on both sides of the aisle about the economy and energy forced the hand of compromise. Extending the credits now also happens to secure something on the order of 115,000 jobs and at least $19 billion in renewable energy investments.
This is a good thing and has largely gone unnoticed in all the hullabaloo around the $700B Bailout plan. And, I believe, this has the potential to have more and longer impact on the economy than Paulson's Power Play.
Why? Because this investment in the new green economy can unleash opportunities for alternative energy investors and companies, opportunities that have been waiting in the wings for too long.
The Bill, known as the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, stipulates
* $18 billion in tax credits for using wind, solar, and geothermal
* 30 percent tax credit for the purchase of residential, commercial, and
utility-scale solar PV systems with no cap for eight years.
* Extension of the production tax credit for wind for one year.
* Extension of tax credits for wave and ocean tidal energy.
* Qualification for residential and commercial small-scale wind and geothermal heat pumps.
* Taxpayers subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax are now eligible for the tax credit.
Removing the cap for the maximum available 30 percent tax credit is a big deal for for both residential and commercial solar project developers. The previous cap was a paltry $2,000, which doesn't go far with most solar projects.
Now financiers of larger projects are eligible to get back at least 30 percent of their investment with no cap. And those who were on hold waiting for tax credits to pass, may now be gearing up.
In addition, utilities, which heretofore were not allowed to receive solar tax credits, are now able to realize the benefits. This could increase solar spending among utilities in states requiring minimum percentages of electricity from renewable resources.
Effects of the passing of this legislation were already having an impact on solar stocks yesterday.
Now it's up to the House to polish it up and for President Bush to put his veto stamp away. He has, according to sources familiar with the situation, expressed his support for renewable energy tax credits and even the ATM provisions.
22 September 2008
My answer was in part that last week the old economy finaly died after an incredible run.
Now it is time for an economy that is built on sustainability, inclusiveness; about high quality green collar jobs -- real jobs here in the US, the kinds of jobs that can't be exported overseas. (That means installation, efficiency, and greater R&D.)
It's about prosperity as much as it is about the health of the people and the planet.
The new green economy is, ultimately, about investing in our future.
What does the New Green Economy mean to you?
19 September 2008
Rather, this could be an opportunity for President Bush and the Sedate, er Senate, to put aside partisan politics. Sure, I know Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has called the Bill a "bold step forward that will help end our dependence on foreign oil," and that makes some in the GOP grit their teeth.
But let them also bite their tongues and see this Bill for what it can really be in these turbulent times: part of a real plan to stimulate our economy and jump-start the new green economy.
There's something for every one in this monster, whether your mantra is "drill baby drill" or "Here Comes the Sun," you have reason to support this as a step in the right direction.
It lets states decide on what reasonable are limits for drilling, stimulates renewable investments, and closes long-gaping fossil-fuel tax loopholes.
Here's the preamble:
To advance the national security interests of the United States by reducing its dependency on oil through renewable and clean, alternative fuel technologies while building a bridge to the future through expanded access to Federal oil and natural gas resources, revising the relationship between the oil and gas industry and the consumers who own those resources and deserve a fair return from the development of publicly owned oil and gas, ending tax subsidies for large oil and gas companies, and facilitating energy efficiencies in the building, housing, and transportation sectors, and for other purposes.What's not to like?
I'm hoping my former Chairman (from TNC) Hammerin' Hank Paulson will knock some sense into Prexy George and change his mind on vetoing what's been labeled the "Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act."
It's time for sound and secure energy policy, economic stimulus rather than bailouts and styptic pencils. Time to jump-start the new green economy and give us a break from the market madness.
18 September 2008
"The companies said their goal is to make renewable energy more accessible and useful."
The importance of updating and shifting the transmission grid in the US can not be overstated. This would be a boon (not to mention a Boone) to making alternatives more feasible and the new green economy more possible.
Read the full story at: http://tinyurl.com/53rlk5
(Disclosure: The author holds small positions in both Google and GE. This information is not intended as investment advice or promotion.)
16 September 2008
Green building has caught on in a major way over the past decade. Now, 14 percent of US municipalities over 50,000 in population have programs promoting green development, according to Shari Shapiro, a lawyer with Obermayer, Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia.
But the financing of those projects hasn't caught up with the building community.
"Until two years ago, I didn't know what LEED certification was," Baldassarre, a former senior vice president with Fox Chase Bank, who is launching one of the first green banks in the country. "It just wasn't something bankers were thinking about."
Baldassarre and others, such as Florida's First Green Bank, Shore Bank of Chicago, and New Resource Bank in San Francisco, are trying to change that.
"Bankers lack the knowledge to go green," says Baldasarre, who referred to "building as the bones and financial services as the circulatory system" of our economic body.
Perhaps the time is coming for the blood running through that circulatory system to turn from red to green.
My 3 Take-Aways:
1. The knowledge gap is a niche worth exploring;
2. There is another emerging niche associated with the real need for a diversity of green financial products and services; and
3. The tipping point is upon us.
Addendum: Something Howard Lindzon (it's Howard's birthday tomorrow, so I'm giving him a shout-out) pointed me to today seems to support the idea of mining this niche. It comes from Roger Ehrenberg of InformationArbitrage.com:
"Investment Banking 2.0 will be the re-emergence of the boutique, the focused, nimble, high-touch firm that was the bedrock of capital formation in the early years of the stock market boom.
"Because these mega-firms being created at the urging of the Treasury are not sustainable. They'll live just long enough for investment banking losses to be absorbed by the commercial bank's larger capital base, after which the best talent will flee for greener pastures."
Greener pastures, indeed.
(Composed on BlackBerry; updated with links 9:29 PM)
14 September 2008
The news this weekend is pretty grim. Bank of America (BAC) is buying Merrill Lynch (MER) for $29/share, American International Group (AIG) was one of the subjects of a special weekend session of Wall Street execs trying to save it from certain collapse. The other, Lehman Brothers (LEH) is being left out to swing on its own rope after Barclays broke off talks.
Lehman Brothers has an illustrious history, and was at the forefront of ever major economic development in the US since before the Civil War.
From its humble beginnings as a general store in 1840s Montgomery, Alabama, and as a cotton brokerage in New York City through the railroad bonds and early securities trading, Lehman Bros went on the ride (or push) the wave of boom after boom throughout the 20th Century.
Lehman financed most of the old major department stores, airlines, movie theaters and studios and was on the leading edge in developing technologies like radio and television, oil development, consumer products, the auto industry, electronics, computers and the Internet. Lehman was there, fueling and financing the economy.
As recently as last year, Fortune named Lehman Brothers the "Most Admired Securities Firm." And the formation that same year of their Council on Climate Change, run by Theodore Roosevelt IV, was set to keep them on top of the business implications of global warming and industry's reaction to it.
No doubt they would have figured out how to make green from Green.
But then came risky mortgages and real estate investments, the resulting financial crisis, collapse of their brethren, and concerns about Lehman's financial condition. Last week, the Fed said it wouldn't come to the rescue of the 158-year-old institution.
Lehman Brothers, once a great institution, is probably going to die.
I've been thinking about what made Lehman great over the past century and a half. Clearly it was an eye for what was next in terms of infrastructure and economic drivers. Who has that vision today?
Could it be that we need new financial institutions with similar vision and wherewithal to fund the major infrastructural needs of this young century?
Where are the new breed of investors financing alternative energy, efficiency, and rebuilding the electricity grid so that it can transport energy generated by industrial wind and solar?
Where are the new institutions that can catalyze a new green economy in much the way Lehman did the golden age of the railroad, the economic expansion of the 1950s, or the leading players of the high-tech revolution?
Some are calling for systemic solutions. Perhaps it's time to change the system entirely.
09 September 2008
I am decidedly Independent, with a capital "I." I've never been a party man and have never voted a straight party ticket or platform. I have friends on both sides of the aisle -- and more who are in the middle, like the majority of Americans. I have both moderate-Republican (Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president) or Reagan-Dem leanings (Lincoln and Jefferson share second place).
I believe in free and fair trade; am for free market capitalism and early supports (credits, incentives) for market creation. I think the playing field should be level; so, if we're going to give huge subsidies to one group in a sector, the others should be given the same or similar benes, or no one should. I believe in the production tax credit and am against a windfall profit tax (better to just get rid of the oil subsidies).
I am a globalist who wants to see America lead the new green economy. I believe the US was right not to ratify Kyoto Protocol without concessions from China and India; but I also believe that those countries deserve to accelerate their economies by virtually any means necessary to get their people out of poverty. (And further, I think they can leapfrog their way to it without destroying their environment.)
I also believe that we need a multitude of solutions, what British economists Gwyn Prins and Steve Rayner called a "silver buckshot" rather than "silver bullet" approach to energy independence and reducing climate change risks and impacts.
That means wind and nuclear; solar and natural gas; biofuels and clean coal; cellulosic and corn-based ethanol; smart grid and more oil drilling; it means hybrid electric vehicles and stricter CAFE standards; it means a tax credit for R&D and promoting energy efficiency.
In other words, as is true with my politics, it's not an either/or question, but an and/both question.
Which is why I was intrigued by Neal Dikeman's assertion in his Cleantech Blog that the McCain-Palin ticket is the best choice for cleantech investors.
Wow, how can that be? From what I've heard, Obama has the most aggressive energy plan going. He will (according to his website)
- Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump
- Help create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
- Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
- Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.
- Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025.
- Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Dikeman calls Obama's plan the "shiny copper penny" plan, by which he may be referring to the negotiator's art of persuading your opponent to take the nice shiny copper penny and give you the wrinkled old paper money, which has more value.
His conclusion? That while Obama's plan is indeed the most aggressive, that is also one of its faults. Dikeman argues that Obama's plan puts green goals ahead of costs to the economy or the American people and has the US tackling climate change solo, rather than bringing the world together to solve it.
He also notes that Obama has a "very limited resume of actually authoring any legislation on energy or the environment; no experience in domestic energy policy; and was anti-drilling (or was until he realized that like two-thirds of Americans support it)."
Obama, in Dikeman's view "supports [a] climate change plan that would represent a wealth transfer from the central US to the coasts and result in a several hundred billion dollar per year new tax on energy (that's on the order of the Iraq war size)."
On the other hand, McCain's platform includes
- Expanding domestic oil exploration;
- Promoting and expanding the use of domestic supplies of natural gas;
- Changing how we power our transportation sector;
- Becoming a leader in a "New International Green Economy";
- Committing US$2B annually to advancing clean coal technologies;
- Constructing 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 with ultimate goal of 100;
- Creating a permanent Tax Credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on R&D;
- Proposing a Cap-and-Trade system that sets limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions while encouraging development of low-cost compliance options;
- Greening The Federal Government A Priority Of His Administration.
- Move The United States Toward Electricity Grid And Metering Improvements To Save Energy.
- Addressing Speculative Pricing Of Oil , but not imposing a windfall profits tax.
Dikeman's conclusion? McCain's "energy plan is balanced, focuses on the force multiplier's like R&D tax credits, batteries, and smart grid, and cleaning up cheap domestic resources like gas, coal, nuke, and ethanol, not the shiny copper pennies like a US Venture Capital Fund, PHEVs, and cool sounding names like 25x25." (Wow, tell us how you really feel, Neal!)
He also notes that McCain is the "only candidate to actually author a climate change bill...[and has] picked a VP with lots of domestic energy experience (the state of Alaska is basically an oil company) who while pro drilling is not pro Big Oil."
Where Dikeman faults McCain is for his spotty legislative record on environmental protection and the fact that he hasn't pushed CAFE to the extent that he should. McCain could also be more aggressive on the production tax credit, according to Dikeman; where Obama supports a five-year extension.
The bottom line, according to Dikeman, a founding partner at the boutique merchant bank focused on cleantech sector, Jane Capital Partners LLC, and chairman of Cleantech.org, is that McCain's plan gets "the crown on energy and cleantech, because it's real and focuses on the long term force multipliers that will keep us competitive, clean and safe in the most economic manner, not Obama's shiny copper penny plan."
Read more at: http://snurl.com/3ofkc
What do you think?
08 September 2008
"Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it 'ambient awareness.' It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things he does — body language, sighs, stray comments — out of the corner of your eye."
Worth a read: http://snurl.com/3o6q7
03 September 2008
Okay, that's a bit dramatic. But, really, it is the first day of the next phase on my path, which I see as more of a bend in the boardwalk than a fork in the trail.
My path began in publishing. I worked as a scout for an international agency and as an editor at Viking/Penguin, but prior to that I founded Rockstop! Magazine, back in the early 80s.
I have always started things. As a media entrepreneur, I was one of the founders of the web-based literary journal Ducky Magazine and founded this web log in 2004.
But for the past 16 years I have been basically a company man, most of that time with The Nature Conservancy, where I held various management positions and, most recently, with Ashoka, the global association of leading social entrepreneurs.
Part of what attracted me to Ashoka was the opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs around the world who were developing business models -- some non-profit and some for-profit -- with the goal of changing the world, flipping a system, or addressing a market failure.
What interested Ashoka in me was my combination of expertise and entrepreneurship. Well, the entrepreneurial itch overtook me recently and I've now left Ashoka to scratch it.
I'm developing a green energy investing platform to reduce the barriers to entry for small retail investors who want to catch the wave of the new green economy. It's in the very nascent stages and probably too premature to talk about, which is both exciting and daunting.
Daunting because the "Career-Man" in me is struggling mightily with this new phase, with his alter ego "Entrepreneur-Man."
You see, I've always created things on the side. Now I'm starting from scratch and spending more time on it than just nights and weekends.
Career-Man excels at crafting a vision, building teams, and management, and he's a pretty good at marketing and raising money. Entrepreneur-Man loves starting things.
But this start-up stuff has got Career-Man all tied up in knots. He's used to having the framework in which to operate, while Entrepreneur-Man likes to build an entirely new framework. Therein lays the struggle.
I tweeted about this earlier today, which generated a few comments from followers and friends.
One wrote, "As a note of encouragement, a job is one thing, your work is another. Now you simply have more ability to focus your energies without navigating so many distractions."
Another wrote, "When you figure out how to keep Career-Man at bay, let me know!"
And finally, another friend was reminded of one excellent line in an otherwise forgettable Tommy Lee Jones-Cate Blanchett film, "The Missing."
In the film, Blanchett plays a young woman alone in the wilderness, who must reunite with her estranged father (Jones) to track the mystical, psychopathic killer known as Chidin (Eric Schweig). Chidin and his brutal pack of army deserters have kidnapped a collection of teenage girls, and have taken Maggie's daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) as their most recent prize.
My friend wrote, Jones' "nemesis says something like, 'The wolf and the good dog within you fight. I wonder which one will win.'"
To which Jones replies, "Whichever one I feed the most."
I must keep feeding the Entrepreneur-Man, because a job is one thing, and my work is something completely different. No doubt the path will be bumpy, but the rewards will be the journey.
01 September 2008
Part of my thinking was in reaction to last week's convention and the rhetoric about manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas and how we have to penalize companies that ship jobs overseas if we want to turn our economy around.
Is that really the solution? It seems to me that manufacturing isn't necessarily the solution to our economy. It may indeed be that manufacturing elsewhere is more efficient or at least cheaper, as long as true costs are not calculated.
But, as I've heard Van Jones and Majora Carter and others say, "You can’t take a building you want to weatherize, put it on a ship to China and then have them do it and send it back. So we are going to have to put people to work in this country — weatherizing millions of buildings, putting up solar panels, constructing wind farms."
Shouldn't our Labor Day and convention conversations be about how we create the new jobs that will fuel a new economy -- a new green economy?