Home Energy and Environment Greening Our Economy by William E. Reyes, Waddell and Reed Advisors

Greening Our Economy by William E. Reyes, Waddell and Reed Advisors


A green economy has eluded us for too long.  Yes, lobbyists from big oil, big coal, the (formerly) big 3 American automakers, and friendly government officials, amongst others have helped to hold us back.  The biggest holdup, however has been the glacial speed at which, we as Americans have embraced a more sustainable lifestyle.  We keep listening when they say being responsible is too expensive and impractical right now.  We have been afraid of jobs that might be lost in coal and oil, without factoring in the jobs that can be created in wind, solar, geothermal, and fuel cell production.   The fact is that coal production employs fewer people than it has in decades because in many mines they now just blow up mountains and use a few guys in steam shovels and trucks to haul the coal out. That has not gotten around enough.  We have dismissed solar because “coal keeps the lights on” without asking why everybody’s getting cancer all of a sudden.   When will coal wealth eventually trickle down to Appalachians?  As far as oil production is concerned, the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia, Central America, and former Soviet states are full of empoverished people still waiting for oil wealth to trickle down to them.  

We have ignored the fact that some of the most important technologies that we have now were opposed at one point and dismissed as unprofitable, impractical, and cooky.  Cars were too noisy and a danger to horses and pedestrians.  There were laws that stated that a horseless carriage had to be led, flanked on both sides,  and followed everywhere it was driven by a man waving a red flag.  Like cars at one time,  airplanes were mostly toys for the rich, and fatalities were commonplace.   Pilots wore goggles to protect the eyes from oil which was constantly leaking from the engine and being thrown back by the wind and the scarf was to clean the oil off the pilot’s goggles, not for glamour.  Flying in clouds and at night was suicide.  And what visible future was there for personal computers that filled warehouses and used more bulbs than a stadium?

So when somebody says solar cells are a little too expensive, or “what if the wind isn’t blowing”, I laugh because I have a historical perspective and an awareness that times change.   What if a war starts in another oil rich country?  What if a mine collapses?  What if there’s another oil disaster?  

Let’s talk about cost.  How much do two wars and rebuilding two other countries cost over a decade?  Diplomatic efforts throughout those regions?  Foreign aid?  How much is a mountain worth?  How much does the loss of a clean stream cost a farmer?  How much money does it take to appease a family after the breadwinner was buried alive and the family knows he suffered for days alone and in the dark before dying.  How much are millions of cancer and asthma cases costing us?  Coal and oil are sounding a lot more expensive, impractical, and cooky to me.    

Well the bottom line is this.  Right now, clean energy enterprises need investment to expand.  Unless the solar water heater is next to the natural gas version at the hardware store and the electrical car is next to the gas one at the car dealership, the clean option won’t even cross the mind of most consumers.  Cleaner and more efficient options have to be offered everywhere to be taken seriously.  More production capability needs to be built.  Green technologies are mature enough to make money.  That’s why Toyota put 50 million dollars into Tesla, the electric car maker and why GE is talking more about wind turbines than jet engines these days.    More importantly, because they are not based on 19th century ideas like most dirty energy, green tech has plenty of room for improvement.  So, R&D money goes further.   That means investor money is necessary to hire scientists and engineers, set up trade shows, build labs and test prototypes.  Every time clean technology is improved to be cheaper, more reliable, and more convenient and proven to be better by effective marketing, another nail gets driven in the coffin of industries like big oil that reduce our planet’s ability to support life.

What’s extra critical is that the availability and practicality of clean energy and green technology be seen by hundreds of millions of new middle class consumers  in emerging market countries like China and India.  Billions stand at a fork in the road.  They can advance sustainably or become new polluters.  We must set a positive example.

Another thing to consider is that investing in clean energy is a vote of confidence.  You may not have enough money to be one of the first to buy a new 100% electric Nissan Leaf this December and charge it with solar cells on your roof.  You can, however, allocate part of your investment portfolio to companies that are promoting ecologically sustainable technologies or reducing their impact on the environment.  This serves to increase the market capitalization (value of stock) of green or greening companies and sends a message automatically to the market that more and more people see opportunity in these companies for growth and profit in the future.  

We can get green investment companies like Calvert, Winslow, Allianz, and Sentinel Funds into the boardrooms insisting that companies in all sectors clean up their act if they want access to our collective investment power.  We can also add the bonds that federal, state and local governments will use to build high speed and light rail projects to our portfolios.  That’s what I call boardroom activism and fighting on two fronts for a planet that supports life.    

Why are fossil fuel companies so powerful?  They are in a mature industry at the peak of its profit making capability.  They have more investors and more money to spend on political contributions, lobbyists, and pr campaigns.  Thanks to a recent supreme court decision, unfortunately, they can wield these weapons without restriction.

What can we do about it?  We can become green investors and consumers who vote with our dollars speeding the growth of a sustainable economy and the demise of an economy that leaves us without a future.  Talk to your financial advisor about developing a portfolio that reflects your values.  If you get a blank, deer in the headlights stare or a chuckle or you anticipate these reactions from them, talk to me.

I can be reached at (757)431-2929 X103

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