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Bail-out or Build-out, Part 2

As the Presidential race nears the finish line— with the candidates and voters both gasping for air amidst the ubiquitous onslaught of commercials on everything from lawn signs to Saturday Night Live—there are no shortages of "new and improved" proposals for dealing with the current financial mess. Well, if politicians can constantly add to their repertoires, so can we. Earlier this month I suggested we should consider investing in cleantech infrastructure as a way to help America (and the world) work its way out of the current fiscal crisis. That offering laid out a vision for a self-supporting revamp of our transportation system that would create jobs, wealth, and improve the environment. Here's another suggestion, this time focused on our electricity energy systems. What do schools, fire stations, hospitals, government offices, and city halls have in common? They are all vital public infrastructure buildings and many, if not most, are pretty old. The older they are, the more likely they are to be wasting electricity. How about a National ESCO Project, where we recruit energy service companies ("ESCOs"), engineering firms, electrical contractors, builders, and others to go into these buildings and identify the outdated lighting, HVAC, elevators, and other inefficient uses of electricity? While they're at it, they could also audit water use and waste disposal. What they will find, as we have in numerous private sector facilities, is that upgrading these things will save so much electricity, that the cost is reimbursed in 18-36 months, after which the owner (that means us, the taxpayers!) starts saving real money, not to mention lots of kilowatts and avoided pollution. As part of the National ESCO Project, we recruit banks to lend money to these institutions to pay for the retrofits. Remember all of that money that the feds are pumping into banks in the hopes that it will find its way into lending to re-start the economy? This would be some of the smartest deployment of that capital, with multiple ROIs, that anyone could suggest. This is where the feds come in again though—to ensure more rapid uptake of the offer, they could guarantee the loans, which would not be much of a stretch considering the underlying asset values, repayment revenue streams, and creditworthiness of the borrowers. In one stroke, you create thousands of jobs, sell lots of efficient new goods/services that generate sales taxes and other revenues to government, reduce pollution, reduce strain on the electrical grid, deploy capital into the marketplace—and save a lot of money. If you're among the remaining undecided voters that both candidates seem so eager to please in the next few days, perhaps you would consider supporting whichever candidate backs this "new and improved" economic stimulus plan! What do you think? Leave us a comment. ———- Terry Tamminen is author of Lives Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction. You can visit him at m