Sunday, October 4, 2009

ZEITGEIST: Funding the New Green Economy

By Joseph Winn

We hear numerous interviews and view countless news stories highlighting the so-called "New Green Economy". Extending beyond political lines, it was even a fixture of the U.S. Presidential Debate circuit, with each candidate providing their own strategies, accompanied with encouraging employment estimates, potentially reaching up to 5 million new, high paying jobs over the next ten years.

With fuel prices continually fluctuating, seemingly outside any sensible pattern, the pain felt at the pump and home heating meter simply enhances the pressing need to strive for energy independence. Recent efforts seek to include renewable and otherwise sustainable alternatives in pursuit of this goal, further cementing the long-term existence of a New Green Economy.

Granted, a completely new direction in energy policy does not come without a price. Likely, billions in capital investments will be necessary from sources as far ranging as the federal government to private business entities. Factor in an economic downturn and it may appear the road leading towards the New Green Economy is not only littered with potholes, but, at points, completely blocked. However, the political will persists.

In the United States, the string of investments partially stems from an unlikely source: the banking crisis. Unbeknownst to the general public, the government bailout funds are not only propping up liquidity-strapped banking institutions to keep them functioning. The more-than $700 billion approved by Congress, officially named the Emergency Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (EESA 2008), has also helped spur growth in the green economy.

The EESA includes billions of dollars in energy tax credits and incentives for both residential and business entities, as well as companies engaged in the development of applicable technologies. Credits available assist in the purchase and installation of solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and a wide variety of other alternative energy producing devices. Looking into the future, the Act also provides tax credits for buyers of plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. For less dramatic purchases, tax rebates are available when upgrading to more energy and water efficient appliances. In fact, there are 32 sections of the 442 page Act which refer specifically to energy tax credits. Not interested in vehicle purchase incentives? There is even a section on tax credits for bicycle commuters!

Many of these credits are extensions and upgrades to federal programs which were due to expire in December 2008. Others expired within the past year, and are again funded to help those eager to make a difference. This comes as welcome news, for even with the downturn in the overall economy, surveys from bizJournals Green show the green industry as "the one bright spot". With the implementation of these new incentives, it will only assure the continued growth of applicable strategies and technologies.

As well, when financial institutions are fully briefed with details on the rebates, their marketing departments will doubtlessly widely publicize the message. Such tax breaks will be welcome news to start-up companies whom, according to American Public Media, are facing difficulties in acquiring venture capital. For them, the bailout is a two-fold benefit: first, enable loans to be issued, then, empower the company to thrive by reducing part of the burden as they grow green.

As the general economic fears are challenged, mitigated, and eventually overcome, "business as usual" will surely reign again. This time, however, let's use all the tools available, from brain power to financial incentives, and make the drive towards a New Green Economy the surefire route of the future.

**This article was originally composed in late 2008. An asessment of the 2009 Stimulus Bill's "green" provisions will be available when complete.**

Joseph Winn is the President/CEO GreenProfit Solutions, Inc., an environmental consulting and benefits firm specializing in assisting small and medium size companies in Going Green. You may contact Joseph at:

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