A few weeks ago I was in New York City for the weekend and had an opportunity to meet up with an old friend at a place with real implications for how we think about economic development and community renewal.
The Brooklyn Flea Market has been around since 2008, and now serves large crowds every weekend in three rotating locations. In growing to its current size the market has come to feature a diverse set of artisans, craftspeople, and other small-scale entrepreneurs selling everything from vinyl records to furniture and vintage clothing. There are a fair amount of food purveyors, as well; the food portion of the market actually became so popular that Brooklyn Flea also operates a separate, food-only market that takes place at two locations along the Williamsburg waterfront.
The image above is taken from the inside of the historic Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, one of New York City’s few iconic skyscrapers outside of Manhattan. From November through March, the market moves indoors to inhabit the ground floor of the historic former banking center, the upper floors of which once housed dozens of area dental offices and were converted in 2006 into luxury condo space.
Now, in addition to the re-purposing of its upper floors, the lobby and basement levels of this landmark building have become a local attraction, providing space for entrepreneurs and small businesspeople to sell their wares, along with a cavernous environment for weekenders to explore. Former teller booths now house pop-up shops with trendy clothing, shoes, and handmade goods. The basement is a series of narrow hallways that feels more like a maze than a place where people are buying and selling food and assorted secondhand items. It probably wasn’t used for much other than storage during the building’s former life, but it’s now a lively hub of neighborhood commerce.
Turning a historic old space into a community attraction and a place where entrepreneurs can find willing customers? Better yet, a place where real people can interact and sell real things to each other? Places like the Brooklyn Flea Market are the highest ideal of free market capitalism; a place where the proverbial butcher and baker meet and succeed on their own merits. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and it’s one that can be applied to communities with a fraction of New York City’s population or historic assets.
To that last point especially, it would be easy to write the Brooklyn Flea Market off as a big city story; a place that can only be sustained by large markets with wealthy residents and lots of purchasing power. But this is both dishonest and misleading. At the end of the day it’s really about scale – in New York City, it might be the bottom floors of an ornately decorated skyscraper, but in smaller communities it could be an underutilized civic center, side street, or vacant lot. There are certainly plenty of the latter scattered across America’s urban and rural landscape, and there’s no reason that the heyday for these places should be thought of as any time but now. Every community has its own unique assets, and if the existence and success of something like the Brooklyn Flea Market represents anything, it’s the fact that if people are willing think creatively and act boldly, there is always the chance to take something and make it better.
What this is really about is finding innovative ways to build community wealth and opportunity for those who are willing to seek it. Not everyone will be an artisan, nor should they be. But not everyone should have to work in an office park or retail outlet, either. It’s about creating a healthy mix of jobs, which comes from ensuring a healthy mix of opportunities. Whether attracting a large outside enterprise or thinking of new strategies to build up the local business landscape, economic developers and community leaders must be creative about how they facilitate opportunities for people in their communities to accumulate wealth. Humans have used trade and exchange to better themselves and their societies since the dawn of civilization. What can today’s communities do to help make sure more of this sort of activity takes place under their jurisdiction?
Money is often referred to as a necessary evil, but there is something beautiful about the process of buying and selling, particularly when it involves things that people genuinely enjoy making, and places where folks genuinely enjoy spending some time on a Saturday. Economic Development has historically been thought of in very narrow terms – how to create a lot of jobs, quickly, and sometimes to the exclusion of other important community priorities, or any real thought about whether those jobs are good jobs, rewarding and gratifying jobs, or just 40+ hours per week of numbers on somebody else’s balance sheet. Maybe it’s about something a bit more fundamental: buying and selling, human exchange, and how to build communities that provide the opportunity to buy, sell, and exchange nice things. Maybe it’s about promoting local interactions as a way for us all to live more sustainably. Emphasize these priorities and maybe the jobs will follow.
There’s no magic bullet, and in the end communities must employ many development strategies successfully in order to succeed. But maybe just maybe there’s something that can be gained from an emphasis on what makes a place like the Brooklyn Flea Market successful. At a time when many communities are crying out for new sources of prosperity and renewal, maybe this is one place to turn for guidance.
If nothing else, it’s a great place to spend a weekend afternoon.
It’s been awhile since we’ve posted but I’ve had a piece simmering in my head for a few weeks and finally am getting some time to sit down and write it. Have a look and give us your thoughts in the comments:
Like millions of my fellow Americans, I participated in the National Day of Service this year, which is held annually in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend and which President Obama has tried, through each of his inaugural celebrations, to establish as a quadrennial presidential tradition as well. Across the country on Saturday, January 19, groups of citizens large and small volunteered with a range of organizations, each different in its particular mission but contributing in its own way to the Greater Good.
After finding that a smaller event we had tried to sign up for was filled to capacity, my girlfriend and I ended up at the DC Armory, where thousands of volunteers helped to pack care kits for US military troops. It was a huge event, sponsored most prominently by Target, and it even included a visit from Vice President Biden and his family. There were DJs, musical acts by school bands and other groups who had traveled from locations across the country to be there, and a stage to accommodate all of this entertainment for the morning’s eager volunteers.
So many people showed up, in fact, that there was a 30 minute wait to even get inside the building, followed by some additional waiting indoors as all of the volunteers were funneled through metal detectors and given wristbands. Once inside, volunteers stood in rows organized by letters and numbers, waiting another 15-20 to be ushered to the front of the crowd, where each volunteer picked up a plastic pouch and held it open while event coordinators stationed behind a series of carefully marked boxes smiled and deposited various personal care items – soap, toothpaste, etc. – inside.
It was, in many ways, assembly line volunteerism. As one of the country’s largest retailers introduced its factory-style efficiency to the community service experience, volunteers waited in line to do their part, and if they felt as if they had more time when they were finished, waited in line and did it again. When we left after about 2 1/2 hours, my girlfriend and I had been through the line twice and helped pack about 8 kits each. In total, 100,000 kits were packed on the day.
The following is not to diminish what was accomplished on that Saturday, but merely to ask some questions. Among them:
How many people does it honestly take to assemble 100,000 military kits? Was there something more useful that the thousands waiting in line at the Armory to hold a pouch open could have done instead to better their communities? Is waiting in line really volunteering? Am I just being curmudgeonly?
The answers to these questions will, of course, depend on who’s answering them, but here’s an honest reading of the situation that I think gives credit where it’s due: Target and other major sponsors put on an event that was intended to be big, it was successful in its mission, the event organizers did a great job running everything as smoothly as possible, and US troops got 100,000 care kits that they didn’t have previously. A-plus all around.
Still, this leads us to a more complicated and fundamental question – was such a large, industrial-scale event the best way to get people out and volunteering on a brisk Saturday? What else could all of those people packed into the DC Armory have done if they were dispersed instead of consolidated?
We live in a big country, and much of the national discourse revolves around our big institutions. Big business dominates the economy, big banks hold most of our assets, big government is seen as hero or villain depending on who you talk to, all while big foundations increasingly present themselves as the saviors of those who fall through the cracks. We live in big cities. Most of us shop at big stores. And when it comes to the political and economic decisions that affect the country and the communities within it, most subscribe to the logic of big. A big federal program here, a big business recruitment success there, big new generating capacity and transmission infrastructure to account for our future energy needs, big companies that can operate at large economies of scale and offer big savings to the consumer. A big service event on a cold day in January to help keep us all humble.
But what if this wasn’t the way forward? What if the blatant inefficiency of all those people spending 80 percent of their volunteer time waiting in line was actually the ugly truth lurking behind most of the big assumptions we passively accept? What if this was more or less a proxy for what we get when we trust that big, corporate-scale solutions are what’s needed to solve problems best dealt with in a smaller capacity? A job-starved community spends countless time and resources to recruit a big outside company that promises to create hundreds of new jobs, offering a lucrative package of tax incentives to help seal the deal, while vesting all of its economic hopes with one business in one industry that will reinvest its profits elsewhere. An environmental activist chooses to invest their time dreaming up big, utility scale energy projects in faraway parts of the country, seeking transformative solutions and seeing few alternatives. The average consumer takes their business to a big box retailer, convinced that no one else can offer the same level of convenience and savings. Are these the actions that will re-invigorate our communities and help us rebuild for the 21st century?
Big will always play an important role. Some big businesses will remain large employers. Some tasks are best done by large-scale entities. Regardless of whose politics win the day, the federal government will remain big, because in a country of over 300 million, there really are few other alternatives. And on Saturday, January 19, 2013, many of the thousands who showed up at the DC Armory needed somewhere to go if they wanted to help out; several of DC’s great service organizations had such a supply of volunteers that they simply had to say no to anyone else who asked.
But what if we could imagine the results of thinking smaller – and saw these not as feeble attempts to chip away at a problem that is beyond our solving, but as small pieces to a larger, more meaningful solution? Thousands of rooftop solar installments. Local support not for big businesses trying to locate but for small ones trying to compete locally – the source of a much larger economic multiplier when they are successful. Policies to help leverage the economic impact of home-based businesses and self-employed professionals. Education initiatives tailored to the needs of kids in specific schools rather than those determined by public bureaucrats and big private benefactors. What if millions of these actions, undertaken by communities across the country, could collectively have a greater impact on our country than waiting for our big institutions to act? What if acting locally were the only way to bring about positive change within many of the places most desperate for it?
As a country, we’ve been through the boom and bust cycle of big. It sounds like it was a great ride while it lasted. Either way, its aftermath has a name befitting of the scale at which our nation has chosen to operate: The Great Recession. And as our big companies downsized and our big government saw its tax receipts drop while its obligations and deficits rose, it may have become even harder, for a brief moment, to see a way out of this mess that wasn’t as big as the way in. But with big crises come new thinking, and with big longstanding challenges come the necessities of drawing up new solutions. Mix in the internet, the most decentralizing force the world has ever known, along with an emerging recognition that many local problems will never be solved without local solutions, and there is a recipe for an entirely new model of development and prosperity that puts our existing political and economic institutions to far better use.
What if on a chilly Saturday morning, I could spend 2.5 hours truly maximizing my impact, rather than just waiting around hearing thank-yous that I may or may not have earned? I contributed something on this year’s National Day of Service, but I think that everyone who was there in the Armory knows that we all could have done more. When it comes to the decisions we make about our communities, we should be just as discerning.
Dear energy consumers,
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” for natural gas plays an important role in the debate about our energy future. As an energy consumer, you may have beliefs about, or beliefs that relate to, the use of hydraulic fracturing technology. Given the prominence of natural gas in today’s energy discourse, I am using my Master’s thesis at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy to study the political and ideological dimensions of hydraulic fracturing. My goal is to develop a more thorough understanding of the relationships between socioeconomics, political alignments, philosophical beliefs, and support or lack thereof for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology – but my research depends on your participation. Here and below you will find a link that directs you to a survey with questions related to the current debate about hydraulic fracturing and natural gas:
To help me with my research, I ask that you complete the survey and then share this message and link with your friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, and other contacts so that they might do the same. If you have any questions please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer you promptly. Thank you for your participation.
Jordan M. Kincaid
Reblogged from the Urban Times – link available here
Interested in what it looks and sounds like when people who care about the earth put their money where their mouth is? In 1996, British entrepreneur Dale Vince founded a company built to provide clean electricity to its customers. Still operating on a not-for-dividend model 16 years later, today Vince’s company, Ecotricity, invests its customers’ energy bills into the construction of additional sources of clean energy.
You can read all about Ecotricity and its business model on their company website: http://www.ecotricity.co.uk. What I thought was really great about the interview with Mr. Vince, though, was the way he described his work as a businessperson:
Essentially we are environmentalists doing business as opposed to business people doing the environment. Sustainability always comes first – it’s in our DNA. Ecotricity’s missions is to change the way energy is made and used in the UK to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change. Electricity from fossil fuels is responsible for 30% of Britain’s carbon emissions – it’s our biggest single source of emissions as a nation – and therefore the biggest single thing we can change.
In a world where, despite considerable progress, too many corporate “greening” initiatives rely more on style than substance, the idea of “environmentalists doing business” is refreshing. Putting aside the fact that environmentalism itself is doomed unless it puts forward a compelling vision of its own for how people can live and prosper in the modern world, lost in the justifiable outrage within the environmental movement toward large industrial polluters (think BP with the oil spill) is the fact that business doesn’t have to be about raping and pillaging. Business, at its most basic level, is about something very simple: providing a product or service that people will pay for. This is a noble calling, and reflects the most fundamental human undertaking in a capitalist society.
What’s really exciting, then, about the notion of environmentalists doing business is that if you want to get something done that’s good for the planet, all you have to do is provide something that people want, and figure out how to do it in an efficient manner. Easier said than done, sure, but each person who succeeds makes a small contribution toward turning the conventional paradigm on its head simply by showing that it is possible, and even advantageous, to turn a profit treating the planet’s health as an asset rather than a cost.
Legislation and politics are important, no doubt. But if you’re an American like myself, you also live in a country where one of our two major political parties simply thumbs its nose at basic scientific evidence. So with all due respect to those who work hard each day within various governments to make the world a better place, what seems like a more effective strategy? Dale Vince didn’t wait for the world to sign an international treaty cutting carbon. He started a company that would do it and help him earn a living in the process.
By all means, those of us who care about the environment should continue pushing for a climate bill, and anything else that may make a difference. But we may be waiting a long time before our governments can get together on their own to do the right thing. The planet, however, can’t wait, and neither can an economy crying out for the creative infusion of new companies and ideas. So in the current political and economic landscape, what can those of us who want to make a positive difference do immediately to create new sources of opportunity and prosperity, while charting a more sustainable way forward?
Go out and become entrepreneurs. Our country needs us.
Those of you who know C’cracy founder and editor-in-chief Libby Murphy likely know that in addition to being an all-around stud she is currently in the midst of pursuing a business degree through Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability program. Last Wednesday, Libby gave me a heads up that one of her professors happened to be in DC giving a talk. I later found out that this particular professor also happened to be the woman who co-wrote what is more or less the Bible of Green Business.
There are people on both sides of the philosophical lexicon who would view that very term as somewhat of an oxymoron. Let’s table that for now. Because as I sat and listened to Hunter Lovins rattle off example after example of how companies that embrace sustainability are becoming leaner, more efficient, and ultimately more profitable, a budding belief of mine that most of our country’s energy and environmental debates completely miss the point of what we really should be talking about turned into something resembling a total conviction.
Some people really, legitimately care about protecting the environment. I count myself as one of them. For people who are not so inclined, I think this sums it up nicely.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, however, what rings loudest when one listens to Ms. Lovins is the necessity of embracing an outlook that we’re all in this together. Business, government, environmentalists… it’s not about who’s at fault, and those of us who frame climate change as a matter of merely staving off environmental catastrophe miss the mark as well. Because it’s also not about what we can prevent, it’s about what we can create, and if that something is going to be anything good it’s going to take all of us working together to create it.
That’s why the more savvy among our country’s business leaders view doing right by the planet not as an inconvenience but as an opportunity. It’s no accident that when Goldman Sachs identified a series of corporate sustainability, social, and good governance indicators, companies meeting those criteria outperformed their baseline counterparts by 25 percent. To paraphrase Ms. Lovins, we can continue viewing our environmental challenges as a cost to be externalized… but we’re running out of places to externalize them.
Ultimately sustainability is about maximizing the efficiency of everything we use. Local resources, national resources, global resources. Everything. In a country famous for harnessing the power of free market capitalism, dependent as it is on celebrating economic efficiency, it’s really quite remarkable when you consider the hostility of some toward radically increasing the efficiency of our non-financial resources. But efficiency will always yield economic benefits to those savvy enough to embrace it. There was a time when the mechanizers of agriculture and the proponents of burning petroleum instead of whale oil where called crazy. Ask John D. Rockefeller how that turned out.
No one said that any of this is going to be easy, but when we think in terms of maximizing the efficiency of our resources, and institutionalize these sorts of mindsets, this is what leads to the sort of innovating that drives the whole process inexorably forward. The avalanche of evidence in favor of the for-profit entities that have already harnessed sustainability to their advantage should be reason enough to make even greater leaps.
For more facts on sustainability, check out this chat Libby posted this afternoon between Hunter and the folks representing GE’s ecomagination initiative: http://www.ecomagination.com/sustainability-is-the-touchstone-of-innovation-talking-with-l-hunter-lovins
It’s a useful primer on the sorts of changes upon which businesses are already beginning to capitalize, and elaborates a bit on what Ms. Lovins discussed at the event I attended.
I hope you enjoy her insights as much as I did.
By Libby Murphy
Variability is a natural part of Earth’s intricate climate system. The planet has endured periods of warmth and glaciation alike in its some 4.5 billion year history. Shifts in climate can be traced back to a variety of natural events and trends, Earth’s rotation, solar irradiance, volcanic activity and more. Currently we are in a period of warming, the rapidity of which is unprecedented, unlike anything we have witnessed or have evidence of in the past. This global warming trend is abundantly clear, measurable and rarely disputed. What is debated, however, are the cause and affect of this warming. There is a strong consensus among the scientific community that this rapid warming is human induced. More specifically, that it is a result of anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. To many people, however, this conclusion is not as evident or logical. The argument to support global warming ranges from a couple of fundamental concepts, the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle, to key evidence connecting human activity to warming temperatures. An understanding of these issues is necessary to wrap one’s mind around the current global warming scenario. This paper intends to present these arguments in a manner more approachable to a non-specialist and will conclude with a framework for which to look toward the future and make key decisions regarding this issue, if you so desire.
Many fuels, including oil, wood, biomass, coal are made up almost entirely of carbon. When we burn these fuels, carbon reacts with oxygen to create carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is in gas form so it rises and settles in the atmosphere. The physical tendency of atmospheric carbon dioxide is to absorb and reradiate energy, effectively creating an insolating blanket around the planet. This in turn leads to warming on the Earth’s surface known as the greenhouse effect. This is the cause of global warming and can be measured in the steady rise of global mean temperature. Other greenhouse gases include methane, CFCs, water vapor and more. Currently, there is a large amount of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere as a result of human industrial activity, most significantly carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.
Forbes is out today with a report that is certainly relevant in light of what I posted here a day ago (see below). At issue is the scheduled expiration of the Production and Incentive Tax Credits, which help make solar and wind energy more profitable and which are set to run out at the end of the year. I wrote yesterday about policy uncertainty strangling the potential of renewable energy to continue its private sector ascent; now, although these two tax credits have been routinely extended in the past, there is a real possibility that an industry which has continued to create jobs during the economic slowdown will be hung out to dry in 2012.
The question remains, in a time of continued economic uncertainty: why are some people so desperate to see the death of a fast growing and diverse industry with tremendous room for future expansion?
2011 is shaping up to be the second-most lucrative year ever for investment in renewable energy technology, second only to 2008. It is well-documented that venture capital for clean technology fell off a cliff along with the rest of the economy in the recession; funding recovered slightly, however, in 2010 and is now expected to grow for a second consecutive year in 2011.
The bad news? While also predicting the 2011 year-end increase in venture funding, clean tech research and consulting firm Kachan and Co. also predicts that investments will drop in 2012, due to, among other things, policy uncertainty and the fallout from the recent collapse of solar panel maker Solyndra, LLC. Kachan Managing Partner Dallas Kachan writes:
There’s no mistaking that the (now expired) American national loan guarantee program helped loosen private cleantech capital in an immediately post-2008 shell-shocked economy. However, continued uncertainty over the future of the U.S. Treasury grants program and production tax credits is holding the U.S. back.
In other words, private investors don’t want to pump money into renewable energy because they’re not sure that existing policy benefits will still be there a year from now. Why? (more…)
Did you hear the one about the marine colonel and the environmental studies professor?
That’s not the beginning of a joke. It’s the basis for an unlikely alliance that has brought the United States Military together with a small liberal arts college in tiny Oberlin, Ohio.
The story begins with the Oberlin Project, an integrated approach toward transforming a town representing the Midwest’s industrial past into a laboratory and model for sustainable development in the future. The Oberlin Project is almost two years old and was originally conceived of by Oberlin College professor David Orr, who described its full range of objectives in his recent book:
Specifically the goals of the Oberlin Project are to (1) rebuild a 13- acre block in the downtown to U.S. Green Building Platinum Standards as a driver for economic revitalization; (2) transition to carbon neutrality by a combination of radically improved efficiency and deployment of renewable energy; (3) develop a 20,000 acre greenbelt for agriculture and forestry; and (4) do all of the above as a part of an educational venture that joins the public schools, the college, a community college, and a vocational educational school that equips young people for decent and creative lives in a post-cheap-fossil fuel economy.
Of course, there are those who would dismiss Orr’s work as a pathetic expression of “green ideology” by an out-of-touch, hippie dreamer. But their ranks may be dwindling. Enter Marine Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby, with a military name out of central casting and a vision at least as forward-thinking as the one put forward by Orr. Mykleby, who serves as a special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, co-authored a paper this spring with Capt. Wayne Porter, a like-minded Navy colleague, calling on the United States to build a secure future by renewing its investments in education, fair social policies, and sustainable energy and agricultural development.
Mykleby and Orr teamed up recently to complete a tour of the Washington think tank circuit, and with overwhelming majorities of Americans supporting meaningful investments in clean technology, there may be an opening to continue to make their case. There is a pervasive feeling in the United States, evidenced by grassroots movements on both sides of the political spectrum (Tea Party/Occupy), that America cannot continue on its present course if it is going to continue being a world leader in the 21st century. The support of two seasoned military men for a localized and sustainable approach to American renewal demonstrates that this isn’t a left-right issue; it’s a matter of practicality, and how we can rebuild our economy and society to live in a world with more people, fewer nonrenewable resources, and environmental challenges that aren’t likely to go away any time soon.
Part of meeting these challenges is a commitment to relying on localized sources of energy. One feature of renewable energy is that most technologies can be deployed anywhere. That means technologies like tidal power (seen here) and grass pelleting (seen here), which aren’t necessarily ready for utility-scale primetime, could still have an important role to play in the energy mix. It also means that while large energy-producing installations might still be essential, the future of energy will look a lot more like promotional poster seen below:
At the moment, the push for more communities in the United States to “go local” remains a faint whisper in the political echo chamber. With a yearlong election campaign about to get underway, don’t expect to see that change much on the national level between now and November 2012. In communities across the country, however, this whisper is growing louder. The Oberlin Project shows that the tangible hopes of everyday Americans – a good job, a decent education, clean air, safe communities – can nourish the movement toward environmental sustainability rather than conflicting with it. If these priorities can be harnessed, the future for new and renewable sources of energy will be bright.
That’s what Energy Secretary Steven Chu claimed in a speech last week to the Washington Post’s Smart Energy conference. You can read all about it here.
The bigger question, however, is what this means for other nascent alternate energy industries. Solar has grown on a solid foundation of government subsidies, tax credits, and most importantly, growing private investment. How can we create a framework for an entire portfolio of renewable energy technologies to attract this same sort of investment and make it big?
More green goes to green projects (LA Times)
Ever since California-based solar cell maker Solyndra LLC went bankrupt on September 1 after receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee, congressional Republicans and grassroots conservatives have rushed to paint its collapse as a prime example of why tax dollars should not be allocated to support clean energy technology. Many prominent political figures including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have made the repeated charge that the government should not “pick winners and losers” through its investments in energy, or any other sector of the economy. The “winners and losers” line seems to be a favorite of Republicans, who claim to prefer that the free market determine which of our myriad sources of energy in the United States win out.
But it seems as though the winners and losers rhetoric stops as soon as many of these same politicians find an energy project or industry more in line with their priorities. In fact, multiple GOP members of Congress including Boehner himself petitioned the Energy Department in 2009 and 2010 for loan guarantees similar to the one given to Solyndra in order to fund nuclear and clean coal projects in their home states and districts. Although it’s not unusual for members of Congress to engage in such lobbying, it does cast a bit of doubt on the sincerity of claims that the government shouldn’t interfere with the market’s supposedly invisible hand.
The federal government has been picking a winner in energy for a long time, and it’s called the fossil fuel industry. With billions of dollars in federal subsidies and tax breaks, the oil and gas industry has been able to maintain its superiority, and take in record profits while doing so. Perhaps without those subsidies, the Big Five oil companies (Shell, Exxon, BP, Conoco Phillips, and Chevron) might spend less time trying to unlock new reserves in hard-to-reach places (the ocean floor, Arctic Circle, and Canadian tar sands come to mind) and more time beginning to legitimately support the new energy technologies in which Big Oil’s congressional backers currently deride the government for making piecemeal investments.
As for Solyndra, this is (was) a company that was initially touted for its innovation in producing silicon-free cells for solar panels; it was only after a global drop in silicon prices that Solyndra lost its ability to compete and had to shut its doors. There also seems to be some confusion over the government’s role in all of this. The Energy Department did not simply hand Solyndra $535 million; the money was part of a loan guarantee, which essentially means that the federal government agreed to underwrite any private loans that the company was given up to the $535 million amount. Imagine you’re taking out a loan on a car or a house, and you have your friend or parents cosign. That’s basically what the government did for Solyndra. In case anyone out there is wondering if this is a new thing, there’s another prominent energy industry that wouldn’t be here without federal loan guarantees – nuclear power, which met over 11 percent of US energy needs in 2009.
We’ll continue to talk in this space about Solyndra and energy subsidies in general. For the critics, however, who would use the Solyndra controversy as an argument against the federal government supporting any renewable energy at all, consider this: solar is currently America’s fastest growing industry. In a down economy, you’d hope this would be the sort of thing we’d find a way to make work.
Latest studies show that the top 400 richest US citizens are wealthier than the entire bottom half of over 150 million people.
Also known as “the Forbes 400″, you can view the list here and see for yourself where they got their money from. Good points out that of the top 25 only three are woman and none are of color.
The question is: is it ok for a society to have wealth distribution as lopsided as this? Compare this to Sweden where a doctor makes little more than a grocery bagger.
Image: jameszol at Visual Economics
Full Article: Good Magazine
Carbonocracy, formerly known as TidalPowerUS, first went live in the Spring of 2009. Since then it has received over 12,000 hits from over 115 countries! Now it’s 2011 and time to expand our focus to several top issues facing our society at this pivotal point in history. Starting now, c-cracy will cover all topics of sustainable energy and efficiency through constantly updated content. The blog will be curated by creator Libby Murphy but will contain writings by many experts in the field of law, politics, economics and technology. Thanks and stay tuned!