Here we go again. More ink is spent on the topic of climate change than on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The initial spillage of copy was mostly in the trade press, but today, climate change gets top billing in the national news — online, in newspapers, in magazines, on the radio, and on television broadcast news. From Al Gore to the Copenhagen climate summit, from melting glaciers to solar flares, from legislation to business marketing, climate change is one of the hottest topics today.
It was only a matter of time before climate change talk moved into the realm of job creation. In the January 11th edition of The Wall Street Journal, author Jeffrey Ball wrote an “Outlook” article entitled, Job Creation Takes On New Importance in Climate-Change Fight.
In his article, Ball states, “If the public has to choose between creating jobs and spending billions to scrub invisible heat-trapping gases from the sky, jobs would win.”
From an HVACR contractor perspective, these big discussions seem distant and outside your ability to make an impact. All a contractor can do is help clients save dollars by saving energy. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Yet, legislation looms in the U.S. that could directly impact their businesses — a little beauty known as cap and trade, which is set up to allow companies to buy and sell permits “to emit dwindling amounts of greenhouse gases,” as Ball states in his article. This is the carbon footprint economy I wrote about two years ago (http://bit.ly/carbon_econ).
These permits are the equivalent of a tax. Proponents of cap and trade, according to the Ball article, believe it's the ultimate job creation program. Detractors, Ball writes, say it doesn't go far enough to control climate change.
The interesting thing about this legislation is that it didn't fly in the Copenhagen summit. Nope. The world didn't want global cap and trade. If the world doesn't want it, how does it make sense for the U.S. to adopt it?
So where does that leave us? As Ball states, it leaves us with “A grab bag of granular steps, each sold as creating green jobs.” He goes on to cite current green manufacturing tax credits which President Obama has already announced.
Good news, but again, how does this help contractors? The answer is, it doesn't — not directly. What does help is creativity, technical prowess, business acumen, and marketing.
Don't forget about attitude. In January, in Orange County, Florida, HVAC contractors, engineers, distributors, students, and others, gathered at the Orlando Convention Center for 2010 Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Exposition. The mood was upbeat.
The focus was on technologies and standards that will help contractors and engineers help their customers be more energy efficient, creating more comfortable environments using sustainable methods to keep people productive, healthy, and safe. The intended result — create more work and thus more jobs. It was a very interesting experience to watch crowds flow onto the show floor on opening day and flood the aisles — initially in the building automation area, and eventually throughout the hall.
Solar technologies drew crowds. Automation and monitoring systems drew them as well. Most of the products were designed to be environmentally sustainable by companies energized because their current and future green processes showed them to be true stewards of the environment.
No one seemed to talk much about climate change. There was more talk about pent-up demand for system upgrades and replacements. There were many animated discussions on stimulus dollars, utility rebates, and opportunity.
To me — that's the way to create jobs. Everyone wants to be green. Providing an economic environment that enables companies to successfully solve comfort, health, and safety problems for commercial and residential building owners will drive replacement of outdated and environmentally unfriendly products with newer, efficient, and sustainable ones.
That's where our focus should be. That will create jobs and improve the economy. The rest will take care of itself.