Thursday, December 08, 2005

America's next economic boom?

This article demonstrates the opportunity we as Americans have to create a sustained economic boom that would also constitute dramatic forward progress in the GWOT by reducing our dependence on oil. I have worried, along with Thomas Friedman, that America will fall behind in developing this technology due to the engineering talent and low cost of R&D in China and India. But these numbers are very comforting; we are well in the lead in innovation in this area.
So if you are a member of the Bush administration, what do you do to get this economic boom underway so you can take credit for it and ensure a continuity of Republican victories in the coming elections?

The answer is multi-faceted, but simple.

1) Offer huge tax incentives to companies who are working in this field, as well as companies that are retrofitting their facilities to take advantage of this technology.

2) Offer federal tax incentives to individuals and families to retrofit their own homes and cars with solar, wind, microhydro, geothermal, biodiesel, etc.

3) Require that federal agencies meet aggressive targets of alternative energy usage and telecommuting, and put in place incentives and facilities for employees who wish to use public transportation or bike to work.

4) Require all government agencies to offer preferential bidding to contractors and vendors who are meeting aggressive targets of alternative energy usage, telecommuting, and accomodation of employes who use public transportation and/or biking to get to work.

Regarding telecommuting, Glenn Reynolds
posted on this issue a while back, and one of his readers responded with a very informative link. Here are a couple of things to pay attention to:

Congress further directed OPM to “specifically identify positions which would be appropriate for teleworking one day each week and offer those employees the option of participating in such an arrangement."

and,

According to a survey, conducted by government-focused IT vendor CDW Government Inc. (CDW-G), 35 percent of respondents said they are not eligible for teleworking, and another 14 percent were not sure. Only 36 percent of respondents said they've been given the option to telework, and 19 percent said they have used technology to work from home or other places away from the office. But 87 percent of employees surveyed would telecommute if given the chance.


In other words, if the telecommuting effort is top-down, adminstered by the OPM or even an agency "telework coordinator," it is not likely to produce the kinds of results we would like. I would propose that the telework program come from the bottom up, meaning, each employee would have the option of submitting a request to telecommute, which could only be denied on the grounds of security-clearance reasons, key personnel status, etc. If there were a material decrease in the employee's productivity, the employee could be called in to work for that reason.
If telecommuting were done effectively at the federal government level, it would result in huge savings to the government in terms of leasing of office space, energy consumption, physical facilities expenses, etc. If the government offered contractors and vendors a huge incentive to implement telecommuting, in the form of preferential bidding status, the savings would spread throughout the country.

I believe that energy is going to take a very prominent position in the next presidential election, since it is inextricably linked to national security. And whoever takes the lead in putting the incentives in place for us to wean ourselves of oil, will preside over the most sustained and far-reaching economic boom in our history, and will do more for the democratization of the Middle East than any amount of wars here.

As the first link showed, we are poised to lead in the development of alternative energy. This is a job- and wealth- creating opportunity that dwarfs any we've seen, including the Internet. So the question for Republicans and Democrats becomes, "Who wants it more?!!"

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