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How Would You Spend It?

Congress passed the bailout plan with a price tag of nearly a trillion dollars, but the ink was hardly dry on this new Monopoly money when quite a few experts began to predict it wouldn't be enough. Some estimates hope the "investments" that taxpayers will make in bad debts could ultimately turn a profit, but how likely is that? Government has tried its hand at business management before with very mixed results. A few years back, I recall, the feds confiscated a brothel in Nevada as part of a law enforcement action. It soon went broke. It's hard to imagine how our government will do better with complicated financial instruments than it did with the oldest, most reliable money-making business that ever existed! So what might the feds buy instead (or at least in addition, given how much money we suddenly seem to have at our disposal) if ROI (return on investment) is the real metric? How about 600 wind farms or 400 solar power plants (at 500 megawatts each) -- about ten times the capacity of nuclear plants that Senator McCain has suggested we build (although no one knows how to handle the waste, security concerns, or global warming impacts that would be associated). Everyone needs power, so we know how much we money we could make on this investment, but better still, the construction projects would employ thousands of Americans and generate business taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes, and other revenues for local, state, and federal treasuries, returning even more on the original investment. The added benefit of dramatic reductions of greenhouse gases would be an ROI beyond estimation. Business groups also tell me frequently that what they most want is certainty. The fuel cost for the solar and wind generators is far more predictable than the cost of coal, oil, uranium, or natural gas. Oh yes, one more thing. Given that these powerplants will last fifty years, we can also predict they will not run out of fuel -- something those incumbents can't say. Not a bad investment. Got a better one? 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